There are growing calls from the administration, Congress, and some presidential candidates to either break up big tech companies or subject them to more careful scrutiny out of concern they may be violating competition laws. Some of this is egged on by advocates who would like to jettison the long-standing consumer welfare standard for antitrust policy, which holds that regulators should stay out of the way unless there is clear evidence a player’s actions are raising prices or curbing innovation. The view among many is that leading technology companies are too powerful and have too much market share in their respective markets; that this is diminishing competition, reducing privacy, and threatening democracy, among other problems; and that the best solution is to be much more vigorous in applying antitrust remedies, including structural remedies such as breaking up existing companies.
But even among those who defend the consumer welfare standard, there are differing views of the how antitrust regulators should respond to large technology companies. Some argue for enhancing antitrust enforcement when it comes to big tech companies with significant market share, particularly if they engage in anticompetitive conduct, but possibly based on their business structure. Others argue that while continued oversight is warranted, U.S. antitrust authorities have largely been right in their approach so far.
ITIF hosted a panel discussion to examine these issues and delve into what, if anything, should be changed in the current antitrust regime.