Is Big Tech All That Bad?


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The argument over Big Data is split. Some argue Big Data makes a small number of platform companies extremely powerful.  These companies have so much data and such resources that they can damage competition, erode our privacy and maybe even distort our democracy.

But not everyone shares this view. Others say the data giants are so gigantic because they serve us so well.  We value what they offer and most of us don’t mind paying for it with our privacy. The ‘big is bad’ theory is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.

Geoffrey Manne is one of the loudest critics.  He argues that Big Tech opponents have failed to identify clear harms to consumer welfare and calls for an evidence-based approach using an error-cost framework.  He also questions the wisdom of trying to shoehorn broader social and political concerns into the narrow economic remit of antitrust law.

In this episode of Competition Lore, Geoff explains why we need to be wary of claims about privacy intrusion as anti-competitive, why network effects should be seen as good not bad, and why the argument that large data-sets prevent new entry is overblown.  He doesn’t buy the idea that big business effectively lobbies government to stifle regulation and he muses that the European crackdown on powerful platform companies may be anti-US protectionism at work. For him, the so far restrained approach of the US authorities is the right one.  The risks of getting it wrong, he argues, are just too great.

Here’s a sample of Geoff’s recent writing on these topics:

Big Tech’s Big-Time, Big-Scale Problem, 2018 (with Gus Hurwitz)

Google and the Limits of Antitrust: The Case Against the Antitrust Case Against Google, 2017 (with Joshua Wright)

Innovation and the Limits of Antitrust, 2012 (with Joshua Wright)

The Problem of Search Engines as Essential Facilities: An Economic & Legal Assessment, 2011 (with Joshua Wright)

The Law and Economics of Data and Privacy in Antitrust Analysis, 2014 (with Ben Sperry)

The Problems and Perils of Bootstrapping Privacy and Data into an Antitrust Framework, 2015 (with Ben Sperry)

A Critical Assessment of the Latest Charge of Google’s Anticompetitive Bias from Yelp and Tim Wu, 2016 (with Ben Sperry and Kristian Stout)

Truth on the Market blogs,

And here’s that quirky song from Tower of Power – ‘What is hip

Featuring regular cut-through interviews with leading thinkers, movers and shakers, Competition Lore is a podcast series that engages us all in a debate about the transformative potential and risks of digitalised competition.

Join Caron Beaton-Wells, Professor in Competition Law at the University of Melbourne, to tackle what it means to participate as a competitor, consumer or citizen in a digital economy and society.

Competition Lore is produced by Written & Recorded.

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