I love high tech, but distrust Big Tech.

Big Tech firms like Facebook, Google and Amazon are now among the most powerful companies that have ever existed.

Their influence and dominance come from their ability to sell and trade our personal information — names, birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, purchase history, websites visited, political affiliations and more. These companies control so much information that they know more about you than your own family.

It’s time the public, media and politicians begin to view big tech companies for what they are — modern-day monopolies. Because these digital platforms are affecting every sphere of life, they have increasing capacities to threaten our liberties if they remain unchecked. It’s time to rein them in before we experience the unbridling of “tech tyranny.”

High-tech giants especially need to be held accountable when they begin blocking or controlling content based on political affiliations and agendas. Most recently, whistleblower group Project Veritas released video of Google executives stating “smaller (tech) companies don’t have the resources [to] prevent the next Trump situation” and that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is “misguided” on “breaking up Google.”

Regardless of your political affiliation, the digital forums once perceived as neutral are now restricting access to information in an effort to influence elections. This is scary and needs to be challenged.

Flickr: Stock Catalog. Flickr: Stock Catalog

While these online forums become ever-increasingly important to our civic conversations, we cannot allow tech giants to have a monopoly on information itself or its dissemination. Government should protect the public from tech monopolies in the same way government regulations broke up past commodity monopolies like Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, and the Bell Telephone Company.

At the turn of the 20th century, the federal government implemented antitrust laws to thwart monopolies in traditional industries. Federal and state lawmakers need to step up their role as protector of our personal privacy by breaking up the big data collectors.

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice need to begin enforcing antitrust laws. If we don’t, we could soon be bought and sold like commodities.

Sherman’s March

Sen. John Sherman, a former secretary of the treasury and champion of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, authored the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 which passed with almost unanimous support. Sherman’s legislation attacked the accumulation of political and commercial power in companies that had the ability to dictate prices, set wages and force out competitors.

Sherman’s powerful denouncement of monopoly trusts on the floor of the U.S. Senate is instructive for us today:

If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale of any of the necessities of life. If we would not submit to an emperor, we should not submit to an autocrat of trade with power to prevent competition and to fix the price of any commodity.

These words have endured. If Americans don’t question the way these “autocrats of trade” use our personal information, we’ll continue losing our sovereignty over our own identities.

Without decisive action to rein in the “information monopolies,” the American people could have to heel to Silicon Valley CEOs as “emperors,” data collection giants as “kings,” and artificial intelligence as “enforcers.”

The benefit of breaking up Ma Bell is that we can now call anywhere in the world for mere pennies on the dollar or free because of competition. Regulating the information monopolies will be just as important for fostering competition and innovation and protecting our First Amendment rights.

The defense of sovereignty over our identities and individual freedom is at stake.

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