In the New York Times, Stacy Mitchell writes:
We tend to credit Amazon’s enormous reach to its inventiveness. Jeff Bezos has built a logistics operation that rivals UPS and FedEx in the volume of packages it delivers to consumers in the United States. Amazon’s Alexa is the dominant operating system in the new arena of voice-enabled devices and web access.
Amazon produces clothing and advanced computer chips, dispenses a growing share of the nation’s prescription drugs, markets surveillance services to police departments, and runs a rapidly expanding advertising business.
But the evidence presented this week in a long report by the House Judiciary Committee, following a bipartisan investigation of the tech giants, tells a very different story. Amazon’s website forms a choke point through which other companies must pass to reach the market. It has exploited this commanding position to strong-arm other companies, control their means of distribution and drive them out of business.
While the report concludes that Apple, Facebook and Google are also abusing their monopoly power, its findings about Amazon deserve our special attention. Through its marketplace, cloud division and voice interface, Amazon functions as essential infrastructure for an astonishing array of companies and industries. This gives it an extraordinary view into the activities of other businesses and an unparalleled ability to manipulate markets to its own advantage.
Preventing dangerous concentrations of private power is part of the necessary checks and balances of a democratic society, and it is Congress’s responsibility. The Judiciary Committee offers several proposals for what Congress should consider doing; the most important is its suggestion to break up Amazon and the other companies in “structural separations.”
To better understand why, it’s helpful to take a closer look at exactly how Amazon became such a force….
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