Antitrust regulation of internet platforms: the global outlook
Large digital platforms have a major share of the digital market and are competing for users’ data. This comes as an impediment to smaller businesses that want to enter the market and sell their goods and services to consumers. Countries across the world are increasingly implementing antitrust measures to foster fair competition between digital platforms and boost innovation on the internet.
However, the first thing to consider is the real value of antitrust regulation for smaller market players. Governments introducing antitrust laws often tend to focus on limiting the influence of big tech companies and competing for power with them. And this may not be beneficial for SMEs in all cases. So it is too early to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of antitrust policies. As Youth IGF leaders pointed out during a live commentary session from IGF 2021 organised by the Youth IGF, there is still a long way to go until it is clear whether these policies are good for smaller businesses and can really foster competition and innovation.
The antitrust regulation frameworks that are now being applied to internet platforms and national markets typically vary from country to country. The absence of a single antitrust model is a serious obstacle to an integrated global approach to the matter. While some countries value the economic impact of antitrust laws, others tend to prioritise their influence on the well-being of societies. The question is which model will dominate in the long run, and whether states will reach a consensus.
Small countries have a role to play, says Professor Gilberto Martins de Almeida from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro: they should be more active in this field so as not to allow major economies to lead the agenda on their own.
Small nations should have their voices heard with the help of international organisations and call for closer cooperation from the global community on antitrust regulation of internet platforms.
When discussing the issue of antitrust regulation of tech companies, it is important to consider the opinion of users. As consumers of digital goods and services, they have a chance to drive the process on the market as well.
Following a talk about market dominance at the IGF 2021 by James Hodge from the Competition Commission of South Africa, Youth IGF Partner Dunsin Fatuase said that dominance can only be achieved if users feel safe with what internet platforms do.
This means that people should have a right to choose which services they want to use and switch between different companies providing them if they wish to. Young people believe most users are not worried about the way digital companies compete on the market, because they tend to care more about the quality of services.
Youth IGF at IGF 2021 Live commentary on antitrust regulation of Internet platfroms in global outlook. Day 3. Hosted by Yuliya Morenets. With Prof Gilberto Martins de Almeida, Dunsin Fatuase, Bernardo Sequeiros.
Young people are concerned that legislators are not currently making use of the potential of technologies that can be used to monitor the competition on the market. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are able to discover attempts of market domination, for example.
“This is something that authorities should use, they should have experts working with them to help them,” said Bernardo Sequeiros, a Youth IGF Partner from Portugal.
Young specialists should also be engaged to assist legislators on technical issues. What is of the utmost importance, says Youth IGF founder Yuliya Morenets, is the implementation of technical standards and data protection measures to accompany antitrust regulation.
During a podcast briefing from Day 3 of the IGF 2021 in Katowice, John Frank, Vice President of UN Affairs at Microsoft, stressed the need to work out tangible solutions to tackle the regulation of digital platforms while preserving the positive social benefits that they create. The challenges that internet platforms currently present to governments and citizens have already heightened the intensity of discussions, and this trend will only continue.