Publication | BRG

Regulating Big Tech: What Are the Lessons from Other Sectors?

Mark Williams and Kalyan Dasgupta

October 2020

Governments are making decisions that will shape the global technology landscape for years to come

“Big tech” is in the political and regulatory spotlight around the world. Lying behind the more headline-grabbing skirmishes about the security implications of Chinese companies, the tectonic plates of regulation, tax and trade are shifting in ways that will reshape the global technology world for decades to come.

Economic regulation is likely to be the first area in which decisions will be made. Over the next year, governments around the world will be designing regulatory frameworks to control the economic power and behaviour of some of the biggest companies in the world. These new rules will govern how they behave towards other companies and how they treat customers, particularly in regard to their data, and may go as far as determining their internal organisational structures.

The rules are aimed at achieving the governments’ objectives—controlling the economic power of big tech companies—but also are likely to affect critical processes underlying the way in which the digital sector works, particularly competition and innovation.

Experience from regulation in other sectors is not promising. Many previous attempts by governments to shape competition have failed, and the effect of some regulation has been to squash, rather than promote, innovation. Much is at stake in the way in which the rules and regulations for big tech are designed.

Read the paper.