Why Amazon is a ‘bully,’ and Facebook and Google are ‘the enemies of independent thought’

When a generation of young tech entrepreneurs leading disruptive businesses burst onto the scene, journalist Franklin Foer rooted for them — at first.
“I can’t say that I was skeptical of these people right from the start,” he said on the latest episode of Recode Decode with Kara Swisher. “What they did seemed exciting and novel. It takes a while for us to realize exactly what they’ve done that’s so terrible, or what the threats are that’s posed by them.”
Intrigued by Amazon’s bloody-nose tactics when it sparred over e-book prices with book publisher Hachette, Foer began to take an interest in whether companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook should be broken up under U.S. antitrust law. He said the law was “bastardized” in the 1960s, limiting regulators’ attention to anti-competitive prices but not much else.
“That was my frustration when I went and talked to the Justice Department about Amazon,” Foer said. “It’s like, ‘Well, they’re actually hurting consumers over the long run by hurting producers. And they’re behaving in a bullying sort of way. Maybe not to consumers, but to producers. Why in God’s name can’t you see the harm?’ And they just couldn’t see it because it was so outside of the current paradigm under which they’re operating.”
And although Google’s and Facebook’s core products are free, their concentrated power is still dangerous, he noted.
“Facebook and Google are constantly organizing things in ways in which we’re not really cognizant, and we’re not even taught to be cognizant, and most people aren’t, and done in a way in which they’re leveraging our data,” Foer said. “Our data is this cartography of the inside of our psyche. They know our weaknesses, and they know the things that give us pleasure and the things that cause us anxiety and anger. They use that information in order to keep us addicted. That makes the companies the enemies of independent thought.”
You can listen to Recode Decode wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsPocket Casts and Overcast.
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