How to deal with Big Tech regulation, smartly

Cory Doctorow, in an opinion piece for the Economist, makes some salient points about challenges and unintended consequences of regulating tech companies. Instead, he proposes what needs to happen. I found myself nodding my head in agreement. The readers here know of my often repeated arguments that big tech giants welcome oversight because it puts the little companies at a disadvantage and thus increasing their grip. Facebook and its fellow giants are enemy of the innovation economy, the very one that allowed them to thrive and become this big.

The past 12 months have seen a blizzard of new internet regulations that, ironically, have done more to enshrine Big Tech’s dominance than the decades of lax antitrust enforcement that preceded them. This will have grave consequences for privacy, free expression and safety.

One exciting possibility is to create an absolute legal defense for companies that make “interoperable” products that plug into the dominant companies’ offerings…Interoperability is a competitive lever that is crying to be used, hard. After all, the problem with YouTube isn’t that it makes a lot of interesting videos available—it is that it uses search and suggestion filters that lead viewers into hateful, extreme bubbles. The problem with Facebook isn’t that they have made a place where all your friends can be found—it is that it tries to “maximise engagement” by poisoning your interactions with inflammatory or hoax material.

Creating state-like duties for the big tech platforms imposes short-term pain on their shareholders in exchange for long-term gain. Shaving a few hundred million dollars off a company’s quarterly earnings to pay for compliance is a bargain in exchange for a world in which they need not fear a rival growing large enough to compete with them. Google can stop looking over its shoulder for the next company that will do to it what it did to Yahoo, and Facebook can stop watching for someone ready to cast it in the role of MySpace, in the next social media upheaval.

If you have a chance, please find time to read Cory’s piece, it is one of my recommendations for the day.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

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