ICLE Associate Director Kristian Stout in the Guardian on resisting the urge to punish firms for merely being “too big”

In an interview with the Guardian, ICLE Associate Director Kristian Stout explains that antitrust law is not the proper vehicle for dealing with generalized political concerns, and pursuing firms simply for being “too big” is inadvisable:

Congress bared its teeth last year when it passed bipartisan legislation to strengthen the policing of sex trafficking on websites such as Backpage.com. Despite opposition from many internet companies, it passed 97-2 in the Senate and was signed into law by Trump.

But big tech, which spends millions of dollars on lobbying, would be a far tougher proposition. The companies do not fit the traditional definition of monopolies that push up prices and inflict consumer suffering and it is not clear that existing antitrust laws could be applied. When the FTC previously investigated Google over how it displayed its search results, it concluded there was no antitrust violation and did not break it up. To force Google to part with YouTube and DoubleClick, or Facebook to get rid of Instagram and WhatsApp, would be a radical step that requires a cast iron legal argument.

Kristian Stout, associate director of the International Center for Law & Economics, said: “I’m very sceptical as to whether you would call them ‘too big’ in the classical sense because it’s an ill-defined criterion.

“There’s always been a contingent of the Democratic party that’s sceptical of big business in one form or another. Republicans are getting more interested because they say conservative speech is being suppressed, but using antitrust laws is absolutely the wrong way to deal with that.”

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