Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently published an op-ed in the Washington Post naming a role for government and regulation around four specific policies that continue to be concerns for users of Facebook and broader digital platforms. In two areas (privacy and political advertising) Zuckerberg reiterates Facebook’s agreement with previous legislative proposals, including parts of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and (although not named) concepts from the Honest Ads Act introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, and the late John McCain. In addition to these two topics, Zuckerberg also moves towards responding to calls from the public interest community for stronger content moderation of hateful content and for meaningful data portability to promote competition in a market that trends towards dominant platforms. While some may view yet another Facebook op-ed cynically, I believe this one should be welcomed.
App stores, such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store, have been good for consumers and independent developers in a number of ways. When they work well, they provide consumers with a convenient way to find and buy software that is safe and functional. I remember when my non-technical friends would never install software on their PCs, assuming that it was all a scam or malware of some kind. Now these same people can confidently install, use, and uninstall apps without fearing that it will ruin their devices or steal their personal information. Again, this is when things are working right. There are always bad actors to be vigilant against, and different app store curators do their jobs more and less well.
The United Kingdom’s Digital Competition Expert Panel released its report, “Unlocking Digital Competition,” to the government yesterday. The report proposes policies that it says, “would create substantial benefits for UK consumers, businesses trying to start up and scale up in the UK, and greater predictability for the major digital companies.” The report argues that competition law and policy in the UK needs to be updated to address the current problems in the digital economy, but that additional tools beyond competition policy will have the biggest impact. “Strengthened antitrust enforcement, although having an important role, moves too slowly and, intentionally, resolves only issues narrowly focused on a specific case.”
On Friday, I was heartened to see Senator Elizabeth Warren enter the digital platform competition debate in a big way. Her proposal has already generated a ton of great conversation about how digital platforms ought to be regulated. The agenda-setting role of presidential candidates is significant, and I’m so glad this important topic is on the agenda now. The proposal includes more wonky detail than many campaign proposals, though of course, it is not fully drafted legislation. I want to take this opportunity to discuss the proposal in depth and think about how policymakers can move forward from here. Congress should start now on providing the additional analysis that is generally needed before any specific action is taken.
Today, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced a proposal to promote competition by making “big, structural changes to the tech sector -- including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.” Public Knowledge commends Sen. Warren for showing a serious commitment to addressing the competition concerns we see in digital platforms, and her recognition that structural regulation is crucial to promoting competition, innovation, and economic freedom on the internet.