Regulation

Former FTC Chairman Seeks Balance In Big Tech Debate

Federal Trade Commission

In the debate between breaking up Big Tech and homing in more on privacy regulation, some observers propose seeking a balance. Former Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman and George Washington University Law School Professor William Kovacic believes there’s a “synthesis” between the two sides, but he thinks U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was right to bring up the issues, CNBC reported.

“It’s time and useful to have a rethink of what we’ve been doing,” Kovacic said. But he noted that the more cautious approach from the other direction raises questions about how that will be done and what techniques will be used to make changes. Even so, Kovacic said Warren is providing a useful service by bringing the issue to light, but the more cautious approach of a number of Republicans and some Democrats is to temper the way to address it.

“That could produce an acceptable result,” Kovacic said. He also pointed out that there appears to have been a drop-off in the number of new startups over the past decade, with fewer companies coming in the market and stimulating continued developments. The main competitive issue for consumers, Kovacic said, is “we’re not having the same level of vitality that we’ve had in the past.”

The news comes as Warren has put forward a plan to break up large tech firms like Facebook and Amazon. Warren wrote in a blog post in March, “Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.” Warren continued, “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.”

Warren aims to make some firms into “platform utilities” that would be defined as firms that have worldwide revenues of at least $25 billion. They would firms that connect third parties or offer an exchange or marketplace. At the same time, Warren also wants these firms not to own both platform participants as well as the utility itself.

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