Antitrust law began in the United States as a tool for economic democracy to address the threat of private companies that control America’s most important industrial oil.
Today, data is new oil, and Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (collectively Big Tech) are said to be a threat to new antitrust laws against US economic democracy.
I think there are some myths to shatter.
Big isn’t necessarily bad, and the current promotion of economic democracy to Big Tech is not the solution to intensifying competition in the rapidly changing technology market. Big Tech’s ingenuity and technological advances are essential to achieving the goals of the Antimonopoly Act of competition and economic democracy.
A dream of a market pipe without a monopoly?
Antitrust enforcers seem to have a long dream of creating non-monopoly markets, but it may be helpful to ask if these markets existed without big companies in the first place. Alexander Graham Bell, the founder of AT & T, was often hailed as the inventor of the first practical telephone and patented his invention and legal monopoly to provide telephone services.
AT & T’s ingenuity has created the transistors, which are the building blocks of all digital devices for lasers, Unix operating systems, and most important computer languages. Several Nobel Prizes have been awarded for the technology developed at AT & Ts Bell Labs. Again, big things aren’t necessarily bad.
It is impossible to list all the proceedings, government investigations, and political pressures facing big tech companies today. Initially, US antitrust enforcers were accused of being too loose in controlling Big Tech’s power compared to EU antitrust enforcers. It didn’t take much for US antitrust enforcers to respond to those critics by emulating a stricter European approach at Big Tech.
But innovation may not be a hallmark of EU companies. Most of the technical turmoil was caused by US companies. Google, Apple, and AT & T are just three symbolic examples, with the question of whether US antitrust enforcement measures are partly involved in this technological advance.
Big Tech doesn’t have to be an idol. And blaming Big Tech for everything we don’t understand about tech markets doesn’t seem to be a way to make these markets more competitive.
The role of antitrust law is not to guarantee that everyone wins the market. Every game has a loser, but the one who wins the competition plays fairly. Now, more competition than ever is in the creation of new technologies. And much of our daily life relies heavily on Big Tech’s ingenuity.
Perhaps antitrust enforcers better understand Big Tech’s technologies that have led these companies to key economic components, such as artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, and use them in their enforcement activities. need to do it.
Detection of anti-competitive practices using AI
Today, most markets rely on AI algorithms. This allows businesses to detect consumer preferences more quickly and deliver better products through historical data. Governments can use the same AI to predict the fastest evolution of the market and which technologies are likely to become widespread.
At the very least, government adoption of emerging technologies will give us a better understanding of the same technologies that are currently dependent on data and the markets we want to monitor. The truth is that the government could not think of moving fast enough in its enforcement action without these proper resources and tools.
Professor Ashwin Ittoo and I created the first AI antitrust application to test the potential of AI in implementing antitrust principles. Our experiments show how likely AI can help antitrust agencies detect past cases (data) faster and anti-competitive practices.
In addition to AI, technological advances offer other compelling tools that can reduce the power of Big Tech and ensure economic democracy in this new technological environment. Blockchain is a technology that creates a decentralized platform that competes with Big Tech’s centralized platform.
A feature of blockchain is that the majority of network participants make decisions on the platform, not on the central entity / authority. The network is said to have reached consensus, and this consensus mechanism is also called actual democracy. Blockchain has the potential to ensure a digital platform economic democracy that is better than government intervention.
Big Tech can represent an opportunity, not a threat, to antitrust agencies. Governments need to stay ahead of technology in order to be effective in the rapidly changing technology market. Unleashing the potential of Big Tech’s ingenuity, technological advances seem to be the antitrust solution that the technological economy really needs.
This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the State Department or its owners.
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Giovanna Massarotto is a CTIC Academic Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Carry Law School.
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