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The Big Four tech companies,[1] Gang of Four,[2] GAFA,[3] or Big Tech[4] are the four or five US multinational online service or computer and software companies that dominated cyberspace during the 2010s: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple. When Microsoft is included, they are also known as Big Five[5] or GAFAM. [6][7]


Eric Schmidt, Phil Simon, and Scott Galloway group these companies on the basis that they have driven major societal change via their dominance and role in online activities, unlike other large tech companies such as IBM.[1][8] Galloway has criticised the companies for "avoid[ing] taxes, invad[ing] privacy, and destroy[ing] jobs",[9] while Nikos Smyrnaios has described the group as an oligopoly, coming to dominate the online market through anti-competitive practices, ever-increasing financial power, and intellectual property law.[6] He has argued that the current situation is the result of economic deregulation, globalization, and the failure of politicians to understand and respond to developments in technology. Smyrnaios justified the grouping together of the GAFAM five as an oligopoly that appears to take control of the Internet by concentrating market power, financial power and using patent rights and copyright within a context of capitalism.[6]


Smyrnaios argued in 2016 that four characteristics were key in the emergence of GAFA: the theory of media and information technology convergence, financialization, economic deregulation and globalization.[6] He argued that the promotion of technology convergence by people such as Nicholas Negroponte made it appear credible and desirable for the Internet to evolve into an oligopoly. Autoregulation and the difficulty of politicians to understand software issues made governmental intervention against monopolies ineffective. Financial deregulation led to GAFA's big profit margins (all four except for Amazon had about 20–25 percent profit margins in 2014 according to Smyrnaios).


According to Smyrnaios, globalisation has allowed GAFA (for Smyrnaios, "GAFAM", including Microsoft) to minimise its global taxation load and pay international workers much lower wages than would be required in the United States.[6]

Oligopoly maintenanceEdit

Smyrnaios argued in 2016 that GAFA combines six vertical levels of power, data centres, internet connectivity, computer hardware including smartphones, operating systems, Internet navigators and other user-level software, and online services. He also discussed horizontal concentration of power, in which diverse services such as email, instant messaging, online searching, downloading and streaming are combined internally within any of the GAFA members.[6]

Opposition to GAFAEdit

Smyrnaios recommended developing academic analysis of the political economy of the Internet in order to understand the methods of domination and to criticise these methods in order to encourage opposition to that domination.[6]

Use of externally-generated contentEdit

On 9 May 2019, the Parliament of France passed a law intended to force GAFA to pay for related rights (the reuse of substantial amounts of text, photos or videos), to the publishers and news agencies of the original materials. The law is aimed at implementing Article 15 of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market of the European Union.[7]

Other tech companiesEdit

Smyrnaios argued in 2016 that the Asian giant corporations Samsung, Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent could or should be included in the definition.[6] Together, this has been referred to as "G-MAFIA + BAT",[10] which also includes IBM. Samsung is primarily an industrial conglomerate. While a dominant presence in the mobile telephony marketplace, Samsung is presently dependent on the Android ecosystem, which Google controls, hence Samsung is not included in the BAT formulation. BAT is also used to refer specifically to the large internet companies in China. Xiaomi has been included to create the term "BATX".[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Simon, Phil (22 October 2011). The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business (1 ed.). Motion Publishing. p. 312. ISBN 9780982930250.
  2. ^ Schonfeld, Erick (31 May 2011). "Eric Schmidt's Gang Of Four: Google, Apple, Amazon, And Facebook – TechCrunch". Archived from the original on 2019-05-25. Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  3. ^ "GAFA Approach to Digital Banking Transformation - Accenture".
  4. ^ "The Economics of Big Tech". Financial Times. 2018-03-29. Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  5. ^ Sen, Conor (15 November 2017). "The 'Big Five' Could Destroy the Tech Ecosystem". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Smyrnaios, Nikos (2016). "L'effet GAFAM : stratégies et logiques de l'oligopole de l'internet" [The GAFAM effect: Strategies and logics of the internet oligopoly]. Communication et langages (in French). NecPlus. 188. doi:10.4074/S0336150016012047. ISSN 0003-5033. Archived from the original on 2019-07-13. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
  7. ^ a b Bougon, François (2019-05-21). "Face aux Gafam, les députés adoptent le droit voisin" [Members of Parliament pass a related rights law against GAFAM] (in French). Le Monde. Archived from the original on 2019-05-25. Retrieved 2019-05-26.
  8. ^ Galloway, Scott (2017). The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Random House. ISBN 9781473542105.
  9. ^ Pisani, Bob (3 October 2017). "We are letting Amazon and Apple 'avoid taxes, invade privacy, and destroy jobs,' says NYU professor". CNBC.
  10. ^ Sterling, Bruce (15 March 2019). "The Big Nine G-MAFIA BAT". Wired. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  11. ^ Greven, Mark & Wei Wei (17 October 2017). "Meet China's new tech giants: Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and Xiaomi". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 October 2019.

External linksEdit