In Praise of Big Internet: The Economic Importance of Internet Companies

Robert D. Atkinson June 4, 2020
June 4, 2020

It has become bipartisan sport to attack “Big Tech,” Rob Atkinson writes in American Compass, but most of the ire is directed at “Big Internet”: consumer-facing Internet companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Uber.

While much of the so-called techlash is focused on the purported negative social impacts—abuse of data, platform bias, and other charges—underlying many of these attacks is a deeper critique: Big Internet provides little or no economic value. They are just glorified purveyors of cat videos and other tools that let people engage in mindless activities. Tech billionaire and Trump advisor Peter Theil reflected this view when he wrote, “we wanted flying cars and we got 140 characters,” implying that internet apps were, in the words of perennial tech critic Nick Carr, a waste of time.

In fact, Big Internet, like other advanced industries like Big Auto, Big Aerospace, and Big Pharma, plays a key role in driving U.S. competitiveness, innovation, job creation, and economic growth. As such, policymakers should be careful to not cripple this engine of U.S. prosperity.