To begin with Google is owned by Alphabet Inc. a multinational conglomerate formed in 2015 to make the family of Google companies and subsidiaries more accountable. However Google, and Alphabet after them, have used their position as the fourth largest tech company in the world to acquire hundreds of smaller competitors and tech companies. These practices, while debatably monopolistic, have harmed competition, innovation, users privacy and are beginning to threaten users freedom of speech. According to Google co-founder Larry Page the competition was always “only a click away” , so online tech giants couldn’t be bad for consumers like real world monopolies, however this is no longer thought to apply to such massive tech giants as Google, who now eclipse many online markets.
One company running such a massive amount of online services and tech products cannot be good for innovation, as the company will inevitably effect the running of a product or service and bottleneck creativity. As it stands Google have bought out more competitors than nearly any other company, ultimately dragging back consumers enjoyment of new innovative technologies and services. Some of Google’s revenue generating practices have long seemed dubious also, and are possible harmful to user privacy. For example Google sells personal user information without passing any of this revenue on to the consumers from which they make this money, putting profiteering above privacy.
Although the biggest growing concern from Google and other big tech firms like Facebook is their stance on social media censorship. In the last decade the Internet has become the main source of not only news and current affairs, with 70 percent of Americans get their news from just two sources, Facebook and Google, but such platforms have also become the main place people have social and political discussions. With these companies now taking a more active role in censoring their platforms, they have demonstrated their willingness to curtail freedom of speech without acquiring consent from or making it clear to users, which poses a much more direct threat to the consumer experience. High profile issues of censorship, such as that of Alex Jones of Infowarz, from Google's YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, has made it clear that most platforms are using secret algorithms to censor content and are willing to even violate freedom of speech in doing so.
However even in America the legal system only addresses the government's right to restrict speech, so this new norm continues, but considering the extraordinary reach social media now has, and the implications this has on election politics makes trends such as this a threat to democracy also. This is especially worrying with platforms like Facebook that have openly collaborated with think tank the Atlantic Council to censor content. While claiming to be a partisan organisation the Atlantic Council have heavy intelligence agency links, such as former CIA chief Michael Hayden, former acting CIA head Michael Morell and former Bush-era Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, as well as Henry Kissinger, and the group enjoy funding from weapons manufacturers, oil companies, NATO, and the UAE. This is not an organisation to have say over what speech should appear online, and neither is a tech monopoly like Google or Facebook.