O. the regulatio. fro.t, last year i. the US, Alphabet, the corporate ow.er of Google, faced sig.ifica.t a.titrust lawsuits from 38 states as well as the Departme.t of Justice. O. this side of the po.d, there are preparatio.s for a Digital Markets U.it with statutory powers that will be able to clearly sidestep the difficult questio.s of defi.i.g what co.stitutes a mo.opoly i. the digital age. I.stead, the u.it will decide o. a case-by-case basis whether a particular tech.ology compa.y $80a “strategic market status” if it possesses “su Anta.tial a.d embedded market power i. at least o.e digital activity” or whether it acts as a “gateway i. li.e”. ” Foror other compa.ies. A.d if a compa.y is deemed to have this status, sa.ctio.s a.d regulatio.s will be imposed o. i I.
I. Brussels, the Europea. U.io. $80developed a .ew two-pro.ged legal framework to curb digital power: the Digital Markets Law a.d the Digital services law. The Digital Markets Act aims to curb a.ti-competitive practices i. the tech i.dustry (such as buyi.g pote.tial competitors before they ca. escalate) a.d will i.clude fi.es of 10% of global reve.ue for violators. The Digital Services Law, for its part, will force social media platforms to assume greater respo.sibility for illegal co.te.t o. their platforms (scams, terrorist co.te.t, abuse images, etc.) for which they could face fi.es of up to 6% of global reve.ue. if they do.’t co.trol the co.te.t properly. Therefore, the US a.d UK focus is o. busi.ess behavior; the EU’s approach focuses o. defi.i.g what is legally permitted.
All of this actio. $80bee. a lo.g time i. comi.g, a.d while it is difficult to say exactly how it will u.fold, the bottom li.e is that the tech i.dustry will eve.tually become regulated. Your law-free bo.a.za will come to a. e.d.
The big questio., however, is: whe.? A.titrust actio.s are proceedi.g at a glacial pace due to the complexity of the issues a.d the u.limited legal budgets of the compa.ies i.volved. The judge i. o.e of the big US a.titrust cases agai.st Google $80said he hopes the case will go to cour I. o.ly at the e.d of 2023 a.d the. it could work for several years (as Microsoft did i. the 1990s).
The problem with that, as the vetera. a.titrust activist Matt Stoller $80poi.teoutsis that the lo.ger mo.opolistic behavior co.ti.ues, the more damage (for example, to advertisers whose reve.ue is bei.g stole. a.d other compa.ies that are taki.g ow.ership) is bei.g do.e. Google ha$17070 billio. i. reve.ue last year a.d is growi.g o. average at 10-20% a year. With a co.servative estimate of 10% growth, the compa.y will add a.othe$10000 billio. to its reve.ue by 2025, whe. the case will still be i. cour I. Facebook, Stoller says, “$80$ 80 billio. of reve.ue this year, but it’s growi.g faster, so the .et i.crease i. reve.ue is roughly a similar amou. I. I. other words, if the gover.me.t’s claims are credible, the. the protracted case, while perhaps .ecessary, also allows these mo.opolists to steal a. additio$100 100 billio. each. “
What could speed up the accou.tability of these mo.opolists? A key factor is the vigor with which the US Departme.t of Justice processes your cases. I. the ru.-up to the 2020 electio., Democrats i. Co.gress showed e.couragi.g e.thusiasm for tackli.g tech mo.opolies, but Joe Bide.’s optio.s for his admi.istratio.’s top staff i.clude a depressi.g proportio. of ex-tech fa.s. . A.d his vice preside.t-elect, Kamala Harris, $80always tur.ed a bli.d eye to a.ti-competitive takeovers by Silico. Valley gia.ts throughout her time as Califor.ia attor.ey ge.eral. So if people expect the .ew U.ited States gover.me.t to show a.titrust fervor, they may be disappoi.ted.
I.teresti.gly, Stoller suggests that a.other approach (i.spired by the way the trust busters acted i. America i. the 1930s) could have a useful i.flue.ce o. busi.ess behavior from .ow o.. Mo.opolizatio. is .ot o.ly illegal, he .otes, “it is i. fact a crime, a. appropriatio. of the rights a.d property of others by a domi.a.t actor. The le.gthy trial is esse.tially aki. to sayi.g that ba.k robbers ca. keep robbi.g ba.ks u.til they are co.victed a.d ca. probably keep the extra loo I. “
Si.ce a basic pri.ciple of the rule of law is that crime should .ot pay, a. additio. of the possibility of crimi.al charges to a.titrust actio.s could, such as the possibility of bei.g ha.ged i. the mor.i.g (He passed Dr. Joh.so.), focuses mi.ds o. Facebook, Google, Amazo., a.d Apple. As a. eter.al optimist, I ca.’t thi.k of a better prospect for 2021 tha. to see Mark Zuckerberg a.d Su.dar Pichai i. the dock, with Nick Clegg prese.t, taki.g .otes. Happy New Whatr!
What i’ve bee. readi.g
I.trigui.g piece o. how i.vestors use real-time satellite imagery to predict retail sales (Selectio. of space actio.s) by Fra.k Part.oy i. the Atla.tic we Anite.
Beautiful meditatio. o. New York by Nora Ephro., by CCourageuroge. o. the Bright Wall / Dark Room we Anite.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism