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As those industry titans monopolize the internet and diversify their businesses, their neutrality is coming under scrutiny, Jonathan Taplin, director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, told CNBC’s Akiko Fujita at the CLSA Investors’ Forum in Hong Kong.
Taplin, a former vice president of media mergers and acquisitions at Merrill Lynch, pointed to the European Union’s milestone decision to fine Google $2.7 billion over antitrust abuses as an example.
Regulators found the search engine giant was favoring its own recommendations over third parties such as Yelp, he said.
“This is going to be a problem more and more as Amazon, for instance, gets into the business of manufacturing its own products. Amazon is going to push its own products over the third parties that it supposedly is a neutral seller for,” Taplin told CNBC.
Facebook will face similar issues as it enters live sports streaming, he continued. The social network recently won the rights to show Premier League matches in certain Southeast Asian countries and La Liga matches in India for free — a development that highlights how digital platforms are increasingly eating into linear television’s business.
“Facebook will become a content player and a neutral platform … this is a big problem,” said Taplin, whose 2017 book “Move Fast and Break Things” explores the topic in further detail.
The 71 year-old, who was once a tour manager for rock legends Bob Dylan and The Band, boasts a lengthy career in media, having produced numerous television documentaries and Oscar-nominated feature films.
If Facebook were to sell Instagram and Alphabet sell YouTube, that could alter the digital landscape for the better, Taplin said, noting that such a development would be unlikely in the United States.
Going forward, “it will be hard for these big companies to buy another big company,” he continued.
Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods didn’t raise any major objections, but if Google tried to buy Spotify, for example, “that might be blocked and that would be a good thing,” he said.