Big Tech

The Need For Regulation Of Big Tech Beyond Antitrust

By Tom Wheeler, Phil Verveer & Gene Kimmelman, Brookings

The nation’s antitrust laws, developed in response to the industrial age, have become the focus of attention in the internet age. Hearings by the House Antitrust Subcommittee revealed substantial evidence of how Big Tech sustained and expanded their market dominance with anticompetitive practices. The Justice Department is reportedly preparing an antitrust action against Google. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is similarly reported to be preparing an action against Facebook.

Enforcement of the antitrust statutes is an important tool for the protection of competitive markets. Yet, it is a blunt instrument unable to reach many nuanced competition and consumer protection issues created by the digital economy. It is inherently uncertain in outcome, reliably lengthy in process, and an after-the-fact response rather than a broad-based set of rules.

Without a doubt, Big Tech has delivered wonderous new capabilities. However, the “move fast and break things” mantra of Silicon Valley has meant that digital companies move fast and make their own rules. Antitrust statutes reflect a time when markets were relatively stable because technology was relatively stable. Today, the rapid pace of digital technology means companies can move rapidly to advantage themselves by exploiting consumers and eliminating potential competition.

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