Press Release Platform Competition

Public Knowledge Competition Policy Director Charlotte Slaiman To Testify Before Senate Judiciary on Big Data’s Threat to Competition

September 21, 2021

Public Knowledge Competition Policy Director Charlotte Slaiman will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights this Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 2:30 p.m. Her testimony in the hearing on “Big Data, Big Questions: Implications for Competition and Consumers” will argue for new laws and rules to rein in the gatekeeper power of Big Tech.

The hearing follows the House Judiciary’s staff report on a year-long bipartisan investigation into competition problems in Big Tech, as well as a string of lawsuits alleging antitrust violations against Google and Facebook. It also follows a bipartisan Big Tech antitrust package recently introduced in Congress and the antitrust reform bill introduced by Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) in the Senate.

The following is an excerpt from the testimony:

“Data is everything to a platform. It is the lifeblood, the currency, and the fuel that drives Big Tech and many of the products they offer. Perhaps most importantly, data is a key component that platforms use to maintain their gatekeeper power. This should be a dynamic industry where innovation can flourish, but because of the hands-off approach policymakers have taken in the past, new disruptive innovators have not had a fair shot.

“Gatekeeper power is at the root of the competition problems Big Tech presents. Expert economists and antitrust professors, policymakers here in the U.S. and abroad, and advocates the world over have identified gatekeeper power—sometimes ‘bottleneck power,’ or ‘strategic market status’—as the power that dominant digital platforms have over other businesses’ ability to reach their customers. As a result, these dominant digital gatekeepers also serve as the primary access point for key consumer data. 

“These gatekeepers get to determine who can play the game in which they also compete. They have the incentive and ability to pick themselves as the winners of this game and pick potential competitive threats as the losers. These same gatekeepers can wield their superior access to data as a cudgel to ensure their gates remain closed — and they stay on top. We can’t expect gatekeepers to give up their power just because it’s the right thing to do. We need Congress to act to break open the gates and promote a competitive market.

“For decades now, Washington has taken the perspective that we need to let digital businesses run wild to see what great innovations they might come up with. But today, unscrupulous data practices and consolidated power have led us to a place that isn’t anyone’s dream of what the internet was supposed to be. These largely unregulated platforms have been allowed to amass powerful gatekeeper roles in multiple markets, where they need not fear competition or government intervention. For users to really have control, we need to have a real choice to leave these platforms. We need real competitors and we need switching to be easy. To get those things, we need new laws and rules to promote fair competition on and against gatekeeper platforms like Google and Facebook. Congress has already done laudable work of introducing a series of bills to combat these harms. The best time to pass them was 10 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

You may view the testimony for more details. You may also view our latest blog post, “Big Tech, Big Problems, & Big Solutions: The Legislative Package to Reinvigorate Platform Competition,” to learn more about the House antitrust package designed to tackle Big Tech’s concentrated market power.