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Inside Philanthropy: Amid Rising Alarms About Big Tech, What Is Philanthropy’s Role?

Read on Inside Philanthropy

“Last fall, we talked to Barry Lynn, director of Open Markets, about what role philanthropy could play in countering the growing—and increasingly ominous—power of Big Tech. Lynn and his team had recently been forced out of the New America Foundation, reportedly for ticking off Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt, a donor to the think tank, for cheering the massive anti-trust fine that the EU had levied on Google. (NAF denies this account.)

Lynn told us that the growing dominance of Silicon Valley firms is “unlike any set of threats that we have ever had to face as a society.” He said he hoped that more foundations and philanthropists would pay closer attention to this danger, backing new anti-monopoly work…

To Barry Lynn and Open Markets, though, taming big tech isn’t rocket science. Last month, for example, Lynn called on the Federal Trade Commission to “use its broad authority to restructure Facebook”—including by reversing its acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, imposing much stricter privacy rules, and forcing it to spin off its lucrative ad network “to eliminate the incentive to amass data and to discriminate in the provision of news and information to Americans.”

Open Markets has been backed by the Nathan Cummings Foundation and a handful of other funders. But it’s often struggled to get backing from top grantmakers, who aren’t yet ready to embrace its tough stance on tech companies.”

PHOTO: ACHINTHAMB/SHUTTERSTOCK

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In America today, wealth and political power are more concentrated than at any point in our country’s history.

The Open Markets Institute, formerly the Open Markets program at New America, was founded to protect liberty and democracy from these extreme -- and growing -- concentrations of private power.

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