EMERGENT GOVERNANCE: COMPETITION POLICY AS PLATFORM REGULATION
Keywords:platform regulation, competition policy, critical policy studies, tech policy
AbstractMuch of the scholarly debate around platform regulation is outcome-focused, concerning rules and norms that should govern platform behavior, rather than focusing on questions of policy processes. However, the question of politics underlying the development of these rules is essential to understanding how and why particular forms of oversight have developed in response to the growing scope of platform capitalism. To address this gap, this paper provides a preliminary account of why competition policy has emerged as a prominent governance mechanism for platform oversight, which privileges stronger antitrust enforcement and economic regulation and has resulted in antitrust lawsuits against and investigations into major tech companies like Google and Facebook. With the US as a case study, I examine a series of 2017-2020 policy debates about oversight of digital platform markets, exploring how the boundaries of competition policy are discursively contested and negotiated in these debates by stakeholders ranging from policy experts to regulators to public interest groups. I argue that these policy debates, driven by a burgeoning antimonopoly movement, produced a set of policy ideas vis-à-vis platform oversight that coalesced around a governance paradigm rooted in competition policy. However, the framework ultimately ultimately prioritizes optimizing competition in digital platform markets above other goals, like data regulation. Consequently, it came up short in providing a policy answer to the expansive forces driving platform capitalism. I theorize these blind spots as partly attributable to the dominance and insularity of the competition policy framework as a foundation for governing platform sectors.
How to Cite
Popiel, P. (2021). EMERGENT GOVERNANCE: COMPETITION POLICY AS PLATFORM REGULATION. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12014