Press Release: New Report Offers Regulatory Roadmap to Rein in Silicon Valley

Release Marks the Launch of the Great Democracy Initiative, a Project to Develop a New Progressive Policy Playbook

New York – As the country grapples with the Facebook scandal and ongoing concerns about the outsized power and influence of Silicon Valley, a new report offers a roadmap for regulating tech platforms. Regulating Tech Platforms: A Blueprint for Reform argues that the government needs a proactive agenda for regulating technology platforms like Facebook, Amazon, and Google to ensure competition, innovation, and protection of individual rights.

Regulating Tech Platforms is the inaugural report of the Great Democracy Initiative (GDI), a project launched to develop a playbook of progressive solutions that make fundamental shifts – not just minor tweaks – to how our government and our economy work.

“Band-aid reforms in response to the scandal of the moment aren’t sufficient,” said Ganesh Sitaraman, author of the report and GDI co-founder. “We face systemic problems, so we need structural reforms to change incentives in the tech industry. Our roadmap for reform puts power back in the hands of citizens and consumers.”

Recent hearings in the House and Senate on the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal underscore the need for a clear vision for regulating tech platforms that have become some of the largest and most dominant forces in our economy. Drawing on historical examples, antitrust law, and emerging technology policy, Sitaraman argues that the problems associated with tech platforms are similar to the challenges Americans faced confronting industry giants in the past – particularly corporations that control vital services. The paper outlines steps that policymakers can take to rein in unaccountable tech platforms, including:

  • Ending Platforms’ Home Court Advantage through Separation and Neutrality. In the current system, tech platforms can ensure their dominance by favoring their own integrated business lines. For example, Google has allegedly given preference to its rankings business over Yelp’s, and Amazon allegedly preferenced the Amazon Basics line of products over competitors. The Federal Trade Commission should be required to designate certain businesses as platforms. Given their central role in promoting commerce, these marketplaces would be subject to neutrality requirements, limiting their ability to stomp out potential competitors. The FTC would also be able to limit the business lines that these platforms can operate under the same company umbrella.
  • 21st Century Privacy Protections. Tech platforms’ intrusions on privacy threaten individual rights through excessive collection and hoarding of data without meaningful consent. This gives big tech platforms more power to keep potential competitors out of the market. Congress should ensure that consumers have broad rights to access and move their data. The government should also limit data-hoarding as a way to inhibit competition and ensure data portability from one platform to another. Taken together, these proposals would protect personal privacy, reduce barriers to entry for start-ups and innovators, and fundamentally shift incentives in companies from data exploitation to data protection.

The paper also argues for more vigorous antitrust enforcement and new state laws to address tech platform dominance.

About the Great Democracy Initiative

Founded by two former top aides to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and housed at the Roosevelt Institute, the Great Democracy Initiative seeks to develop bold, progressive, and actionable policy plans for leaders seeking solutions to key issues facing our country. Instead of proposing technocratic tweaks or layering new programs on top of a broken system, the Great Democracy Initiative targets the structural problems facing our democracy, including unaccountable policymakers, corporations with outsized economic and political power, and policies that subtly stack the deck against average Americans.

“Americans can see that our economy and our government are rigged for the powerful and the connected. They know the difference between real reforms that restore democracy and minor tweaks that maintain the status quo. Starting with this report, the Great Democracy Initiative is offering real solutions to some of the biggest issues of our time,” said Julie Margetta Morgan, Executive Director and co-founder of the Great Democracy Initiative.

In addition to today’s report, GDI launched a new website that outlines the Great Democracy Initiative’s areas of focus, including Cracking Down on Corruption, Ending the Rigged Economy, Protecting Our Democracy from Global Threats, and Rebuilding Our Country.

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