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Big Tech Will Survive But Not Thrive In Washington, D.C.

 |  November 27, 2022

By Ben Koltun, Beacon Policy Advisors LLC.

Tech is ubiquitous in American society. So are the policymaking efforts to bring Big Tech under control. But big anti-Big ambitions among lawmakers and regulators can often get cut down to size.

Tech Was Good Until It Was “Big”

It was a different time at the start of the Obama Administration in January 2009. ExxonMobilXOM -0.4% and WalmartWMT +0.4% were the two largest American companies by market cap. Only about a quarter of Americans owned a smartphone. Lina Khan was still in college. “Uber” was a modifier, not a company.

The Obama campaign in 2008 was the first presidential campaign to truly harness the power of social media for fundraising, educating, and organizing. That success was replicated in the 2012 campaign. For Democrats in power, tech was a burgeoning field that was a force for good. Social media was seen as a major catalyst in the democratic Arab Spring.

There was little need for legislation or regulations to curb a “good” industry. The consumer welfare standard, the traditional antitrust analysis based on consumer costs, didn’t raise red flags for tech platforms that were free for users.

Yet success begets more success, which begets scrutiny. Tech became “Big.” When an industry is big, it’s seen as big trouble in Washington, D.C. Big Banks, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, and Big Pharma all invite scrutiny and pushback.

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