The exponential growth of big tech companies over the past 20 years has left legal systems scrambling to update legislation to align with this new market. It’s very easy to attribute blame to politicians here and claim that their restricted understanding of big tech has slowed down the legal development. However, such issues are incredibly complex and the unintended consequences that could arise from poor legislation are terrifying. To try and navigate this minefield, the US government has appointed Lina Khan as the chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
A lawyer by training, Lina Khan has written extensively on the topics of antitrust and competition law. Khan’s Yale Law Journal piece title “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” sought to redefine the notion of a monopoly in the new tech era. As the title suggests, Khan uses Amazon as a case study to highlight the harmful monopolistic power that Amazon are able to exert on markets. In this text the message is clear: Just because Amazon makes customer’s happy through cheap pricing, they should not be given a free pass on antitrust and competition laws.
Chairing the FTC, Khan’s role is to set out the department’s agenda. It is therefore no surprise that she has immediately set about redrafting previous bills to more accurately reflect the current impact of big tech companies. Both Amazon and Facebook have already filed motions to have Khan recused, citing a predetermined bias from Khan against big tech. Republicans too are exercising some caution with regards to Khan’s policy changes as they worry that, if taken too far, new policies could stifle the potential tech market’s growth.