Microsoft President Brad Smith said that though Microsoft isn’t a target for these new big tech antitrust cases, there are key lessons governments should take from its 2001 case, reported CNET.
“Twenty years ago, almost solely the vehicle that governments used was an investigation and a lawsuit. It was a case against individual companies,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said Tuesday, February 2, during an editorial roundtable with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. This time around, Smith said, governments appear to realize that legislation can help solve larger concerns about competition. “I think regulators have broadly concluded that cases are both too narrow and too slow.”
The European Union has introduced ideas like the Digital Markets Act, which seeks to spell out how much companies with large user bases can promote their own products to users ahead of those from a competitor, and the Digital Services Act, which would put pressure on companies to do a better job moderating their platforms. Tech companies could face fines of up to 10% of their global revenue — easily reaching into the billions of dollars — for breaking these rules if they’re implemented.
The EU isn’t the only government targeting tech. Microsoft’s comments come at a time when governments around the world are expressing concerns about increasing signs of bad behavior among tech companies. Amazon, Apple and Google have been accused of kneecapping competitors by pushing their own products to the top of search results, deservedly or not.
To Nadella, this is part of a larger problem with the tech world, where companies worry about growing first before they worry about unintended consequences that come with that type of scale. For example, he said, companies need to consider how their growth can impact people’s trust. And whether the company’s being fair as it grows.
“The business model and the technology need to account for the unintended consequence, with the unit of scale being one,” he said to CNET.
For many tech watchers, that’s a bit rich coming from the CEO of Microsoft, a company whose software reached a worldwide scale so quickly and forcefully that it eventually led to the antitrust ruling in 2001.
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