“This hearing is timely and important,” said Maurice Stucke, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s antitrust division who now teaches law at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “It’s taking place not in isolation, but amid increased scrutiny of the dominant technology platforms from around the world.”
Stucke believes the hearing is happening at a critical juncture, when authorities are beginning to grapple with the sweeping market power amassed by a handful of digital platforms, only to realize that current antitrust laws are inadequate and in need of change.
All four companies appearing at Wednesday’s hearing are the targets of ongoing antitrust investigations by the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission or bipartisan coalitions of state attorneys general.
“The emerging consensus is that first, antitrust scrutiny is a necessary but not sufficient component to address the multiple risks that these powerful platforms pose; second, the antitrust laws need to be updated; and third, we need to go beyond antitrust to a regulatory framework that addresses the risks posed to consumer protection and privacy,” Stucke said.
Skeptics of regulation
But there are others who see the antitrust scrutiny of major technology companies as misplaced. Geoffrey Manne, president of the International Center for Law and Economics, which advocates limited antitrust regulation of digital platforms, is skeptical of using antitrust enforcement to rein in or break up the companies, as some have suggested doing.