Digital platforms like Google and Facebook have grown into massive digital gatekeepers, controlling access to increasingly wider swaths of the internet while leaving consumers with few, if any, choices online. Today, we have one dominant search engine, social network, and e-commerce platform. These companies are free to exploit consumers and crush nascent competitors to stay on top — unless we stop them.
The gargantuan size of today’s Big Tech titans leads to network effects — a gravitational pull that draws consumers and investment towards the biggest — and not necessarily the best — platforms. This limits consumer choice by pulling attention away from innovative, smaller platforms.
These dominant platforms then exploit user data and its increasing returns to scope and scale to both grow to mammoth size and make market entry foolish for any would-be competitors. At the same time, the platforms limit consumers’ ability to control the detailed information taken from them for profit. Finally, digital platforms are able to leverage their dual roles of market overseer and participant to self-preference and expand into new markets.
Unfortunately, antitrust law and our enforcement mechanisms have proven insufficient to tackle the problem of Big Tech. Decades of unfriendly judicial precedents, skeptical judges, and lax enforcement have allowed Big Tech to rise relatively unchecked.
Public Knowledge works to give consumers more choice and power online by supporting new pro-competition tools such as interoperability and non-discrimination. We also support equipping enforcement agencies with greater funding and strong leadership to help revitalize competition in digital markets. We urge Congress to pass tech-specific laws to rein in Big Tech, as well as a comprehensive federal privacy law. Finally, we advocate for Congress to create a new digital regulator to use these forward-thinking tools.
To learn more about our work on consumer privacy in the United States, click here.