Bill Gates doesn't think breakups are the solution to big tech's problems

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Bill Gates in a recent interview with Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzke weighs in on the government’s recent probe into the practices of big technology companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

In a nutshell, Gates said that if a company is behaving badly, the best course of action would be to address the matter directly. “You should just say, okay, that’s a banned behavior.” Splitting a company into two and having two entities doing a bad thing doesn’t seem like a solution, he said.

Gates added that there is a pretty narrow list of things in which a breakup is the right answer to.

Touching on another sensitive topic, taxes, Gates said companies are behaving totally legally and doing a lot of innovative things with regard to how they structure themselves for the purpose of tax breaks. “People should look if they want to change that going forward, that’s the real question.”

As for social media, Gates said nobody had a crystal ball and could have known that these platforms would radicalize people or split them into different groups. “What the solution should be – you know, have us reading a common front page and not being pulled to extremes,” isn’t necessarily the responsibility of tech companies. “Government really needs to talk about what those rules should be,” he said.

Instead, “it’s up to society to make sure [that the innovation of big tech companies] don’t have negative side effects.”

Masthead credit: Bill Gates by Frederic Legrand - COMEO

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Evernessince

TS Evangelist
“You should just say, okay, that’s a banned behavior.”

The problem we are having Bill is that many companies are doing these banned behaviors regardless of the consequences. It's more profitable to break the law then it is to follow it.

And yes bill these mega corps evading taxes is totally legal but you completely missed the point of the question. A majority of questions were on whether something "should" be legal or whether we "should" do something. These companies paying much much less then their fair share in taxes should be illegal. Just because something is the law doesn't make it right or moral.

Watching this video was a waste of time, it's just another billionare making suggestions they know will never work to protect their wealth. Bill Gates donates a lot to charity to fund his pet projects but ultimately he fosters a system that continues to sow inequality and that will do far more damage then his charity can ever repair.

In addition, it needs to be clarified that banning behavior is the wrong way to go about it in many cases. For example, if a company is giving customers really crappy service because it is the only cable provider in the area, telling them "No!" isn't going to fix the fundamental issue, which is that there is zero competition. That's treating the symptom, not the cause.
 
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Shadowboxer

TS Addict
I completely agree with his point about breaking companies up. I’m currently working for a U.K. based company that the EU has directed must be split up to prevent a monopoly. And we are in the process of doing so atm. There have been job losses, price hikes and complete failures of process as entities form. And there isn’t a sniff of competition. They have just made everything harder for everyone involved, including the customers and yet no competitor is even beginning to form, we have the same problem as before just now the entities that are tackling it are smaller and less powerful and involve a far larger amount of chiefs.

But I guess the sales department is now a seperate entitity and that means they need PAC access to our office so they leave our canteen alone.
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Would you expect anything different from Bill Gates??? Once again, until such a time when the penalties are a percentage of the companies income they won't do anything different. If you fine them in terms of 50% of Gross Operating Income and tell them for every repeat the fine will be doubled they will sit up and take notice quickly. AND eliminate the write off / write down of these fines making them non-deductible you'll REALLY get their attention .... and fast!
 
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EClyde

TS Evangelist
Love the religious hands Bill. Your publicist tell you to do that or did you lift it from a FB Morgan Freeman poster? Next time point or just do the one handed waist high sideways salute, thumb curled under of course
 
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Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
Lots of hate on Gates... but anyone have any real arguments with what he said? Breaking up a company rarely - if ever - works. The company (or companies) simply continue what they were doing before the breakup...

Look at Standard Oil... The government, eventually, forced a breakup - so that Big Oil wouldn't hold a monopoly and be able to influence governments... how's that working out?

No one can become a billionaire without being a bit ruthless and making enemies ... but maybe all these haters might just be a tad jealous?
 

p51d007

TS Evangelist
NOPE NOPE NOPE!
If government, gets its hands on what can and cannot be posted on "social media", where will it stop?
Then, what can and cannot be viewed, read in a paper, watched on televsion, youtube, etc?
No! Let the public decide what they want to read, hear & view and tell the d*mn government to keep their
hands out of it. The first amendment, means HANDS OFF. With freedom, you have to put up with the good & the bad.

“What the solution should be – you know, have us reading a common front page and not being pulled to extremes,” isn’t necessarily the responsibility of tech companies. “Government really needs to talk about what those rules should be,” he said.
 

m3tavision

TS Evangelist
NOPE NOPE NOPE!
If government, gets its hands on what can and cannot be posted on "social media", where will it stop?
Then, what can and cannot be viewed, read in a paper, watched on televsion, youtube, etc?
No! Let the public decide what they want to read, hear & view and tell the d*mn government to keep their
hands out of it. The first amendment, means HANDS OFF. With freedom, you have to put up with the good & the bad.

“What the solution should be – you know, have us reading a common front page and not being pulled to extremes,” isn’t necessarily the responsibility of tech companies. “Government really needs to talk about what those rules should be,” he said.
What are you talking about?

The reason "We the People" don't like monopolies, is because we understand what happens, when they take place. SO we have LAWS preventing a company from monopolizing a market. These LAWS are in place to protect the Citizens... and yet here you are being a grade-schooler who doesn't even know basic Civics.

Nothing in the US Constitution pertain to Companies. It was written for the People. "We the People"... reign supreme over Companies. And, the people set the laws in which these companies can operate within our Country.

Lastly, it is no the government you should be worried about... with what you can/or can't post on social media. It is these social media companies (Facebook/Twitter/etc) that Americans have to worry about, with these Companies who censor/mask/hide the things they (as a company) don't like other Americans to find out/hear/be heard about, etc.

That is why Google, Facebook, etc are in trouble and may be broken up.... because if you have a different viewpoint from others, they will just silence your posts. Which is against our laws...

Thus, to big and circumventing our laws and even our own fines. They have become too powerful and must be broken up... because they won't stop censoring reality.
 
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jpuroila

TS Enthusiast
NOPE NOPE NOPE!
If government, gets its hands on what can and cannot be posted on "social media", where will it stop?
And having the likes of Zuckerberg dictate it is better how? "Public" doesn't get a say either way, and at least the government can be held accountable(to a degree). You have no freedom either way, the only difference is who gets to hold your chains.
 
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Evernessince

TS Evangelist
Lots of hate on Gates... but anyone have any real arguments with what he said? Breaking up a company rarely - if ever - works. The company (or companies) simply continue what they were doing before the breakup...

Look at Standard Oil... The government, eventually, forced a breakup - so that Big Oil wouldn't hold a monopoly and be able to influence governments... how's that working out?

No one can become a billionaire without being a bit ruthless and making enemies ... but maybe all these haters might just be a tad jealous?
You are taking a single example and applying it to the whole. There are certain instances where a monopoly might provide beneficial but those are extremely rare. The example you provided was one of a company that offered it's products at decent prices and did proper environmental cleanup on good faith. I do not believe you are going to trick anyone here into believe that every monopoly is going to be doing the same thing. There are far more examples of monopolies that hurt the public then provide any tangible benefit. Makes sense too, a company tasked with maximizing profits will a vast majority of the time do so. Salt, bacon, tabaco, steel, railroad, telephone service, ect. These monopolies took control of their respective industries, reduced innovation, increased prices, ect.

https://www.investopedia.com/insights/history-of-us-monopolies/

There are more historical examples to backup the claim that breaking up monopolies is in fact effective. No one says breaking up a company is the only option either. Of course when taking any action on a company it should be considered if said action will actually yield a benefit. America's monopoly history essentially ended in the 90s due to lobbying and companies playing the system. I find it hard to believe that the last big monopoly was Microsoft, especially when you have companies like google that have near 100% share of the search engine market and a good chunk of video, advertising, mail, and browser markets. I wouldn't call for their breakup but I would certainly probe into whether they are / have ever used their position in the market to hamper or block competition. Once the facts are obtained, then a determination could be made on what to do if at all necessary.
 
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Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
You are taking a single example and applying it to the whole. There are certain instances where a monopoly might provide beneficial but those are extremely rare. The example you provided was one of a company that offered it's products at decent prices and did proper environmental cleanup on good faith. I do not believe you are going to trick anyone here into believe that every monopoly is going to be doing the same thing. There are far more examples of monopolies that hurt the public then provide any tangible benefit. Makes sense too, a company tasked with maximizing profits will a vast majority of the time do so. Salt, bacon, tabaco, steel, railroad, telephone service, ect. These monopolies took control of their respective industries, reduced innovation, increased prices, ect.

https://www.investopedia.com/insights/history-of-us-monopolies/

There are more historical examples to backup the claim that breaking up monopolies is in fact effective. No one says breaking up a company is the only option either. Of course when taking any action on a company it should be considered if said action will actually yield a benefit. America's monopoly history essentially ended in the 90s due to lobbying and companies playing the system. I find it hard to believe that the last big monopoly was Microsoft, especially when you have companies like google that have near 100% share of the search engine market and a good chunk of video, advertising, mail, and browser markets. I wouldn't call for their breakup but I would certainly probe into whether they are / have ever used their position in the market to hamper or block competition. Once the facts are obtained, then a determination could be made on what to do if at all necessary.
Lol.... you didn’t understand what I said.... monopolies are NOT beneficial! I never said they were. Standard Oil was AWFUL, but....
Breaking it up didn’t help because the “broken parts” simply continued to collude - as they do to this day.

The solution to the evils of a monopoly, Bill Gates argues, is not to simply break it up. You have to actually legislate against the “evils” that the company is doing. Otherwise, the broken parts will simply continue doing what they were doing before - they’re not really going to compete with each other just because they’re a separate company. They’re going to collude and they’ll be no legal way to stop them.
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
All hail the all-knowing Bill Gates! :facepalm:
Love the religious hands Bill. Your publicist tell you to do that or did you lift it from a FB Morgan Freeman poster? Next time point or just do the one handed waist high sideways salute, thumb curled under of course
That's his "Have I got a deal for you!" Pose. ;)

Lol.... you didn’t understand what I said.... monopolies are NOT beneficial! I never said they were. Standard Oil was AWFUL, but....
Breaking it up didn’t help because the “broken parts” simply continued to collude - as they do to this day.

The solution to the evils of a monopoly, Bill Gates argues, is not to simply break it up. You have to actually legislate against the “evils” that the company is doing. Otherwise, the broken parts will simply continue doing what they were doing before - they’re not really going to compete with each other just because they’re a separate company. They’re going to collude and they’ll be no legal way to stop them.
Even if you legislate it, companies will do everything in their power to find the loopholes.

And here I go again:

IMO, things will not change until humanity finds a better economic system. For the most part, money has become the ultimate goal. Most companies, especially as we learned from leaks from the likes of fakebook and gagme, want to addict their customers to their products. Take, for instance, how everyone wants you to subscribe to their service. Its a guaranteed income for them, and many companies do not give a :poop: about how they hook you as long as the hook you. They could care less about what is best for their patrons; they only thing they care about is how much money is deposited into their bank accounts from your wallet.

fakebook is no different. It has hooked literally billions of users through the ability to give people the impression that they are contributing something meaningful when most of those posts are about mundane things like "I am taking a crap right now."

These companies do not give a flying :poop: about what is best for their customers. They only care about their bottom line. I, for one, refuse to contribute to the welfare of Zucky's, or any one else's a$$. To me, that is what these subscriptions or "free, but we will collect every bit of fragging data we can about you including when you eat, sleep and :poop: so that we can sell it to everyone else" services offer. They contribute nothing to society, IMO.

Until companies care about their patrons instead of profits, nothing will change. And my bet is that there is no way possible under the current economic systems of getting companies like these ones to care about their patrons since that would mean that they have to put their patrons first instead of profits - and that simply will not happen at any time in the near future as I see it.
 
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VectorVortec

TS Rookie
Lots of hate on Gates... but anyone have any real arguments with what he said? Breaking up a company rarely - if ever - works. The company (or companies) simply continue what they were doing before the breakup...

Look at Standard Oil... The government, eventually, forced a breakup - so that Big Oil wouldn't hold a monopoly and be able to influence governments... how's that working out?

No one can become a billionaire without being a bit ruthless and making enemies ... but maybe all these haters might just be a tad jealous?
Well he had a horizontal and vertical monopoly on the software market that ruined the software industry. That Seattle Computing code was a highly suspect knockoff of CP/M which was likely a direct copy, since Seattle Computing had the source.

In addition, Gates has a major stake in Facebook, and his investment changed social media. You want to do the opposite of whatever Gates is saying.
 

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
Lol.... you didn’t understand what I said.... monopolies are NOT beneficial! I never said they were. Standard Oil was AWFUL, but....
Breaking it up didn’t help because the “broken parts” simply continued to collude - as they do to this day.

The solution to the evils of a monopoly, Bill Gates argues, is not to simply break it up. You have to actually legislate against the “evils” that the company is doing. Otherwise, the broken parts will simply continue doing what they were doing before - they’re not really going to compete with each other just because they’re a separate company. They’re going to collude and they’ll be no legal way to stop them.
Read the link I posted. Standard Oil did provide some benefit.

Also, I already responded to your 2nd paragraph. It looks like you read a few sentences and gave up.
 

Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
Read the link I posted. Standard Oil did provide some benefit.

Also, I already responded to your 2nd paragraph. It looks like you read a few sentences and gave up.
Standard Oil might have been better than what was before.... but it also basically ran the US (many argue it still does) and despite its breakup, “big oil” is responsible for much that is wrong in the world today. Your article argues that monopolies are good for creating infrastructure- which doesn’t really apply nowadays...
I read your second paragraph.... it basically states what I’d already said - we’re basically in agreement here.

My only point was that breaking up a monopoly is merely a first step - you need to actually provide legislation (and enforce it!) that keeps the company from the evil practices you are breaking it up for!