This is the first blog post in a multi-part series.
Has the time come to regulate the Internet or to break up the big tech companies into smaller firms? In the introduction to his excellent paper “The contradictions of platform regulation” (pp. 304-305), my colleague and new friend Mark Lemley identifies several concerns that many people have about social media and other big tech platforms:
- The fact that “[w]e spend much of our lives online—even more today in the wake of the pandemic”;
- “the rise of hate speech and misinformation online”;
- “growing fears about the loss of privacy”;
- the increasing feeling that Big tech platforms like Google and Facebook have for all practical purposes become “entrenched” monopolists, including the many “instances of aggressive behavior by incumbents designed to disadvantage competitors”; and
- “the out-sized influence these [tech giants] have come to have on almost all aspects of our lives”.
These are legitimate worries, but is government regulation or antitrust law an effective way of addressing these concerns? Professor Lemley’s contribution to this discussion is to point out that existing calls for regulation will not only produce unintended and perverse consequences; these calls for regulation are in many instances contradictory or self-defeating! I will continue my review of Prof Lemley’s paper and provide some specific examples of this problem — the problem of contradictory Internet regulations — in my next post.