Produced and edited by James Sandy; graphics and animation by Russell Birkett; filmed by James Sandy, Joe Sinclair and Tom Hannen
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TIM BRADSHAW: If Big Tech companies are broken up, what would that actually look like? Well--
HANNAH MURPHY: There are two different ways in which you might break up the companies. One might be to spin off the recent acquisitions. In the case of Facebook, that would be potentially by splitting up the acquisitions it's made, so WhatsApp and Instagram from the main Facebook platform.
TIM BRADSHAW: That's actually completely the opposite direction that Facebook is running in right now it's trying to knit together the infrastructure that sits behind those three platforms, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp ensure that they're all tied together in the same place. So if regulators don't act soon, that could get a lot harder to achieve.
RICHARD WATERS: Another way-- and I think a more fundamental and in some ways more interesting way-- would be to separate platforms, technology platforms from the services that run on them. So the platforms that dominate our lives, the things where activities take place, we communicate on them, people write software that runs on them, you could put those into one set of companies, and then all these separate services could go somewhere else.
TIM BRADSHAW: So one example of that in search with Google is whether they should be allowed to operate things like shopping comparison or travel sites as well as the search engine that directs traffic to competitors of shopping and travel sites.
RICHARD WATERS: It sounds attractive politically, because if you've got big powerful companies that are thought to have misbehaved in some way, then punishing them by making them smaller might make us feel better, and it might also make them look a little less threatening.
HANNAH MURPHY: If you did do that, there's a question as to whether that would, indeed, help resolve some of the concerns around safety. I guess the argument is just that if the bigger you are, the more resources you have and can share and help each other to sort of take down unwanted content.
TIM BRADSHAW: So it could be that instead of breaking companies up, the answer is actually to make them treat the companies that they interact with more equally, then that might actually be one way of increasing competition.