Future historians may someday describe the times we live in as the ‘age of the monopoly’. At a time when essential global vaccine rollouts have resulted in a once-in-an-epoch economic windfall for a single private pharmaceutical player, we seem to have reached the logical outcome of a decades-long neoliberal offensive. Corporations are bigger and more powerful than ever, exercising totalizing control over the economy, society, and polity alike. This coup d'etat entails the privatization of strategic economic sectors, public services, and resources of various countries by a handful of corporations.
Big Tech, certainly, has been no stranger to super-profits during crises and poses existential threats to sovereign nation-states. Indeed, the most obvious referents of the monopoly today are technology corporations. Their unparalleled expansion drive, made possible through venture capital and an all-powerful intelligence advantage, has distorted the playing field for other, especially smaller, actors in the market. For regulators who are slowly being seized by the dangers of such unbridled growth, antitrust action has become the antidote of choice.
But how effective a solution can competition law be in countering tech monopolies?
This month, DataSyn peers into the realm of competition law, and the complex challenges surrounding its application in an economic landscape that is a far cry from the industrial-era materiality within which its original principles were conceived.
We reflect on last year’s infamous move by Facebook in Turkey to enforce data sharing with messaging platform, WhatsApp, and the unexpected way in which it propelled effective antitrust action. We also explore, if and how competition frameworks can move beyond market efficiency considerations to truly grapple with Big Tech’s data power and center the goal of market fairness.
The DataSyn Team
THE NEW DIVERGENCE
Time for Upgrade: Why Competition Law is Not Enough for the Platform Economy
Shreeja Sen, with inputs from Anita Gurumurthy and Nandini Chami
Current competition law frameworks, with their narrowband focus on market efficiency and consumer welfare, cannot fully correct for the outcomes of an anticompetitive digital economy landscape. In this piece, Shreeja Sen argues for new regulations to counter monopolies that extend to aspects of social justice, health and safety, and sustainable futures.
Turkey Versus Facebook: Charting a New Pathway to Antitrust Regulation
In 2021, Facebook brazenly attempted complete data integration with WhatsApp, prompting widespread backlash from users and regulators alike. The move, which eventually was rescinded, provided an opening for competition authorities to review the phenomenon of data extraction that undergirds tech mergers in a new light, as in the case of the Turkish Competition Authority. Discussing this case, Burcu Kilic analyzes the intersections of competition law with consumer and data privacy laws.
The Sins and Synergies Lounge
Enjoy this deep dive into antitrust regulation and an analysis of the opportunities of the present moment by Elettra Bietti.
An ambitious piece contextualizing Big Tech dominance in India through the eyes of a small trader. Nilesh Christopher reports the story of the Indian man waging a war on Jeff Bezos.
Listen to this episode of ‘This Machine Kills’, featuring Evgeny Morozov on tackling techno-feudalism, building resilient institutions against digital capitalism, and the origins of The Syllabus.
In this provocative piece, authors Thomas Klikaue and Meg Young underscore platform capitalism’s ability to turn labor into “seemingly self-driven entrepreneurs, who are more often than not, not much more than individuals seeking attention”.
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