Belling Big Tech: Policymakers lock horns with Big Tech’s power
In 2019, the term ‘techlash’ caught on and became a prominent part of our public discourse. Signifying a turning point in the unqualified acceptance of tech corporations’ actions, policymakers finally began to see and recognize ‘Big Tech’ as a problem that needed to be addressed. Whilst the vast disruptions of pandemic, economic strife, and war have slowed down the public conversation, the wheels of policymaking have continued to move, slowly, but surely.
If the early regulatory spirit in tech policy addressed first-generation civic rights, recent years have seen an increasing and much-needed preoccupation with issues of monopolization and market distortions. With the harms for diversified innovation, consumer interest, and the health of the economy becoming too glaring to ignore, a rising trend of regulation grounded in antitrust measures seeks to course correct.
But how far do they go? This month on DataSyn, we critically engage with the policy initiatives attempting to ‘fix’ Big Tech. We study their underlying frameworks, gauge their potential for substantive change, and identify persisting blind spots and obstacles. Our first piece reflects on recent regulatory moves being made by the EU through the Digital Markets Act and other efforts being pursued by the US and other major economies. Our second piece reconsiders development in the digital age and analyzes efforts by the Global South to assert sovereignty within the digital policy space with a view to challenge the dominant EU-US approaches. Of course, these are still early times and the immediate years ahead will tell us how policy processes are faring to keep pace with (if not, ahead of) digital markets.
The Datasyn Team
THE BIG EXCESS
The Big Wave of Platform Regulation is Here: What’s Next?
Deepti Bharthur & Shreeja Sen
A clear trend is emergent in current regulatory interventions attempting to address the monopolistic practices of Big Tech in the EU and the US. Deepti Bharthur and Shreeja Sen analyze this wave and discuss their salient features as well as limitations. They also reflect on what these efforts mean for the developing world.
THE NEW DIVERGENCE
Labor and Development in the Digital Age
Aaron Schneider & Henrique Estides Delgado
With digital technologies reshaping economic structures and value chains, the developing world’s attempts to secure its fair share fall further out of reach. Aaron Schneider and Henrique Estides Delgado critically analyze how digitalization changes dynamics of “surplus-accumulation” within contemporary capitalism, and how this impacts the strategic interests of the Global South.
The Sins and Synergies Lounge
In trying to understand the voices – and the ideological pressures – that shape a policy, there’s nothing quite like being able to peak into the discussions that led up to it. Read George Riekeles fascinating and worrying first-hand account of witnessing Big Tech’s lobbying machinery in Europe.
The ‘Military-Tech complex’ has always been one of the best and worst kept secrets behind how technology advances in the contemporary world. Lest we forget, the internet we know also descended from this very nexus. Explore in this piece, the Intercept’s sharp reporting on the links between Google and the Israeli Military.
What are the geopolitical dynamics involved in today’s digital economy, as first-movers seek to expand their advantages and developing nations attempt to counter these forces and secure a space for digital industrialization? Watch this panel discussion from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, where Jacquelene Mwangi, Thomas Streinz, Ofunmilayo Arewa, and Padmashree Gehl Sampath reflect on these questions.
As recent events around the US’s anti-Russian sanctions have demonstrated, one of the key nodes of contemporary digital and financial infrastructure continues to be the SWIFT International bank transfer system. Read this piece from the Transnational Institute, where Andrés Arauz breaks down the colonial dynamics surrounding the US’s control over this crucial institution.
In the South, one of the biggest barriers to leveraging digital technologies for development remains the problem of access. The gender digital divide, for instance, radically stifles the potential of digital mediation for women, especially those that also bear the brunt of informality. Listen in to the first episode of SEWA Federation’s ‘In Solidarity’ podcast, where they reflect on these issues with our very own, Anita Gurumurthy.
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