Okay, Google, Can I Trust You? An Anti-trust Argument for Antitrust

In Mark Alfano & David Collins (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Trust. Lexington Books. pp. 237-257 (2023)
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In this chapter, I argue that it is impossible to trust the Big Tech companies, in an ethically important sense of trust. The argument is not that these companies are untrustworthy. Rather, I argue that the power to hold the trustee accountable is a necessary component of this sense of trust, and, because these companies are so powerful, they are immune to our attempts, as individuals or nation-states, to hold them to account. It is, therefore, literally impossible to trust Big Tech. After introducing the accounts of trust and power that I deploy, I argue that Big Tech companies have four kinds of power that render them unaccountable: fiscal power, political power, data power, and cognitive power. I conclude by reflecting on recent calls to break up the Big Tech firms, suggesting a new antitrust test in the light of my arguments.

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Trystan S. Goetze
Cornell University

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