Big Tech’s antitrust audition could be colossal, or just theater

“This hearing is timely and important,” said Maurice Stucke, a former prosecutor with the Justice Department’s antitrust division who now teaches law at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. “It is carried out not in isolation, but amid increased scrutiny from the world’s dominant technology platforms.”

Stucke believes the audience is occurring at a critical juncture, when authorities are beginning to grapple with the vast market power amassed by a handful of digital platforms, only to realize that current antitrust laws are inadequate and need change.

The four companies appearing at Wednesday’s hearing are the target of ongoing antitrust investigations by the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission or bipartisan coalitions of state attorneys general.

“The emerging consensus is that first, antitrust scrutiny is a necessary but not a sufficient component to address the multiple risks posed by these powerful platforms; second, antitrust laws must be updated; and third, we need to go beyond antitrust to a regulatory framework that addresses the risks posed to consumer protection and privacy, “said Stucke.

Skeptics of regulation.

But others consider the antitrust scrutiny of major tech companies to be out of place. Geoffrey Manne, president of the International Center for Law and Economics, which advocates limited antitrust regulation of digital platforms, is skeptical of using the antitrust app to control or dismantle companies, as some have suggested doing.