MEDIA AND BROADCASTING

The new chair of the FTC and antitrust 2.0

TIM MULLIGAN | June 22, 2021

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The appointment of Lina Khan on June 15th to chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is poised to be a transformational one in the history of the world wide web. Khan came to prominence with an article in the Yale Law Journal, Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox, which identified the paradox of hegemonic tech service providers which bypass the US’ strict competition laws by offering lower prices to the end consumer. Under US antitrust law, the driving indicator of market monopolies are higher prices for the consumer – under this strict definition, none of the tech majors which dominate the digital economy are monopolistic. Indeed, some such as Alphabet and Facebook do not even directly charge the end user for their services. So, while both Google and Facebook dominate the global digital ad market, making an antitrust case against them under the current 20thcentury era regulatory framework is nigh on impossible. However, the absence of meaningful competitive challengers to these two incumbents in search and social advertising over the previous 15 years, despite the lucrative high margin business opportunities, implies that the competitive market is not performing according to classical economic theory. Khan has built a subsequent career on trying to square this circle, and now the Biden Administration has empowered her as the key instigator of the sweeping regulatory update required for a digital-first century.

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