Why Big Tech Keeps Shrugging Off Bad News

Facebook, Google, and Amazon are under unprecedented regulatory scrutiny. But investors don’t seem to care — yet.

Will Oremus
Published in
6 min readJul 30, 2019


Credit: Chesnot/Getty Images

You might think the world’s largest internet companies would be running scared.

The Federal Trade Commission last week fined Facebook a record $5 billion for privacy violations, while the Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to fine it at least another $100 million. Google faces an FTC fine of its own. States are enacting new privacy laws, and federal legislation is in the works. Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on tech and antitrust, on the same day the Senate held a hearing on alleged bias in Google search results.

There’s more to come. The FTC and Department of Justice have divvied up jurisdiction for antitrust reviews of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, and Facebook confirmed last week that it is the subject of an FTC antitrust investigation. One of Facebook’s own co-founders is helping the government to build its case. On top of that, the Department of Justice last week announced that it had begun a broader antitrust review of the dominant tech platforms, including all of the companies named above. Not to mention a litany of privacy scandals, growing dissent among employees, criticism of working conditions for contractors, and controversies over content moderation, hate speech, and surveillance. It’s not surprising that a Pew Research Center survey released on Monday found that the percentage of Americans with a positive view of tech companies had fallen 21 points over the past four years to just 50%, while the percentage of those with a negative view had nearly doubled to 33%.

In short, Big Tech is under unprecedented scrutiny, and its years of going largely unregulated are numbered, if not already over. But if you expected to see any of that meaningfully reflected in stock prices or bottom lines, you were misguided. On the contrary, its businesses are doing better than ever before.

Four of the world’s five largest tech companies — Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft — reported their quarterly earnings last week, as did two other major social platforms, Snapchat and Twitter. All six reported healthy…