Describing data as 21st-century oil is passé. But the parallel is naggingly relevant in relation to competition. Just over a century ago, trustbusters broke up Standard Oil. The same resolve is now needed to reduce the dominance of the tech giants. A hefty report into digital platforms published by Australian regulators shows why. Google’s 96% share of general search advertising revenue is even higher than the 91% of US oil refining once controlled by the great US oil group. For every dollar spent on digital advertising in Australia, 47c goes to Google and 21c to Facebook. Legislators will need cunning as well as grit to loosen the grip of “big tech”. Clumsy regulation could entrench incumbents by discouraging start-ups. Moreover, the antitrust remedies used in the past are poorly suited to solving the problem. Network effects create deep moats around tech platform companies. The more consumers use a platform, the better the experience and the stronger the monopoly. Facebook and Goo...

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