DAVIS: The Big Tech Case No One is Watching (But Should Be)

August 19, 2022


The United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division is currently on trial before Judge Nichols (the Trump appointee who oversaw Steve Bannon’s trial for contempt of Congress). The DOJ antitrust case challenges the proposed merger between United Healthcare and a data driven technology company named Change Healthcare. According to the DOJ, should Judge Nichols allow the merger to proceed, United would control a “critical data highway through which about half of all Americans’ health insurance claims pass each year.” This is because Change’s technology currently processes not only United insurance claims, but also insurance claims for most of United’s key competitors. Unless the DOJ is successful in blocking the merger, United will have access to treasure troves of competitive data from its rivals that it could use to throttle competition and eventually raise prices on American consumers.

The Internet Accountability Project is leading the fight to take on the monopoly power of Big Tech before it’s too late. Although United Healthcare is not a Big Tech platform, it is a Big Data platform in the healthcare markets in which it operates, making the DOJ’s case one which we are tracking. The similarities between how Big Tech uses data to throttle competition and the allegations in the DOJ’s complaint are striking. According to the DOJ, should the merger proceed, “United stands to see and potentially use its health insurance rivals’ competitively sensitive information for its own business purposes and control these competitors’ access to innovations in vital health care technology.” This kind of forced data sharing is business as usual for Big Tech platforms. Every day, Big Tech platforms use their market power to force smaller rivals to hand over competitively sensitive data in exchange for access to one or other Big Tech platforms. Big Tech then uses this data to undermine competition, chasing the smaller (often more innovative) rival from the marketplace. Having eliminated what rivals existed, Big Tech’s insurmountable data advantage becomes a lasting entry barrier against new entrants. This entry barrier protects and extends Big Tech’s monopoly, which is a win for Big Tech but a loss for competition and the American consumer.

The DOJ’s emphasis on the importance of data as a competitive tool in its United Healthcare case is a necessary and helpful step in the fight against Big Tech. Both United Healthcare and the Big Tech platforms including Google, Facebook and Amazon can and will use data as a stick to throttle competition. Worse yet, the data they use to throttle competition is often the very same data the competitor was forced to hand over to a Big Tech dominant platform under duress. Think about that for a minute: it’s like a thug telling someone they are going to be assaulted; but worse still, the thug is going to use the victim’s favorite baseball bat to commit the assault. 

We are counting on Judge Nichols to view the DOJ’s strong arguments against the United Healthcare merger in the correct light. The fight against Big Tech must include an understanding that Big Data is Big Tech’s weapon of choice to undermine and eventually kill their competition. At the Internet Accountability Project, we believe it’s time for conservatives to fight back against this un-American conduct before it is too late.

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Unlike the Big Tech monopolies, the Internet Accountability Project pledges to never sell or share your personal information, which is your property.