Big Tech Consolidating Power And Profits As Small Firms Deemed ‘Unessential’ Are Shut Down

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by Chris Menahan, Information Liberation:

Big Tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google are seizing unprecedented power and consolidating profits during the coronavirus crisis while less politically connected small businesses deemed “unessential” are being forcibly shut down.

The Amazon-owned Washington Post on Monday detailed the disturbing power shift in as muted a way as possible in an article titled, “Tech giants are profiting — and getting more powerful — even as the global economy tanks.”


From The Washington Post:

Tech titans spent much of the last year playing defense, fending off dozens of federal and state antitrust investigations and a public wary of their power.

But the global coronavirus pandemic is prompting a dramatic reversal of fortune for the tech giants. Amazon and Facebook are capitalizing on the fact that they are viewed as essential services for a public in lockdown, while Google and Apple are tracing the course of potential new covid-19 infections.

No doubt we’ll find out in the coming months or years after the pandemic is over that these surveillance tools are being used to spy on Americans.

The pace of the probes against these companies has slowed as regulators and lawyers are forced to work from home. Emboldened tech lobbyists are fighting to delay the enforcement of a new privacy law this summer in California, saying they can’t comply by the July deadline due to the upheaval.

And while the global economy faces potential unemployment and contraction not seen since the Great Depression, the tech giants — and a handful of medium-size tech firms — are already benefiting from new consumer habits initiated during the lockdowns that analysts believe will turn into longer-term shifts in how people shop, work and entertain themselves. The broader stock markets tanked in recent weeks, but share prices of Amazon and Microsoft hit at or near records. Facebook is moving to acquire high-skilled talent, announcing the hiring of 10,000 new workers this year.

The tech giants’ deep pockets will enable them to withstand the coming global economic recession, a stark contrast to what industry insiders and analysts expect to be the biggest shake up of the tech landscape in years. As many start-ups collapse, tech giants will expand on the power they’ve accumulated using the playbook of the last decade: snapping up talent, buying or copying rivals, and eroding traditional industries. Some of those weakened companies may disappear altogether and cede even more territory to tech.

[…] Meanwhile, over 250 start-ups have already shed more than 30,000 jobs since March 11, according to Layoff.fyi, which tracks Silicon Valley layoffs and furloughs. A recent survey of 400 investors and founders by the venture capital firm NFX found that more than half of start-ups said they had initiated a hiring freeze or had lowered their value in the hopes of attracting new investment. Start-ups that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, such as the scooter company Bird, have laid off large portions of their workforce. The company made the tough decision to lay people off — over a minutes-long Zoom call — to keep the company afloat through 2021, according to a company memo reviewed by The Post.

[…] Big Tech’s ability to continue hiring and sustaining themselves through crises will not only give the companies an advantage in Silicon Valley, but in the economy at large. Many of the traditional industries expected to suffer — brick-and-mortar retail, food service, and media and entertainment — are the same industries that have been gradually gutted by technology since the last recession.

Macy’s, which competes with Amazon, said it was furloughing most of its 125,000 employees last month. Conde Nast Publications, which competes for ad dollars with Facebook and Google, is planning major layoffs.

While analysts expect hits in revenue to both Google and Facebook for the first time, smaller ad platforms, publishers and social media rivals will fare even worse, analysts say. Smaller digital advertising firms, long struggling against the giants, have begun to announce waves of layoffs.

[…] Analysts and investors expect that consumption patterns and habits will continue to change, potentially for the long term. That could also result in a new order among the start-ups that emerge or survive the crisis, said Roelof Botha, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. He said he was already beginning to look for a new class of winners, automating everything from mortgages to garbage picking to data infrastructure needed to support remote work.

“This is a shock to the system, and sometimes out of that shock emerges a new order,” Botha said. “Like the killing off of the dinosaurs, this reorders who gets to survive in the new era. It is the shock that accelerates the future that Silicon Valley has been building.”

The future Silicon Valley has been building is an Orwellian dystopia where you can lose your bank account and ability to buy and sell for having the wrong political beliefs.

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