Lawmakers in several state legislatures this year proposed new ways to challenge the dominance of Big Tech corporations such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Their interest was born out of necessity: Dominant tech corporations are taking control of an ever-growing swathe of the economy, using their power to become gatekeepers over key avenues of commerce. This allows them to extract fees from local businesses and deprive those businesses of customers, push down worker wages, and use subsidies from state governments to further entrench their dominance, among other harms.
Big Tech corporations use a variety of abusive and anticompetitive tactics to achieve their dominance, and no one policy solution will address them all. Nor can states go it alone: The federal government should approve complementary measures, through Congress and agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, to rein in Big Tech’s power to limit the ability of other businesses and workers to access free markets for their products and labor.
But there are many steps state lawmakers can take on their own to address the power of these corporations. Several are outlined below: We detail the policy problem posed by Big Tech, outline possible solutions, and explain how to respond to some of the critiques – both legitimate and not – from those invested in the status quo. And we suggest model legislation that has already been introduced at the state level, where applicable.
By adopting these policies, state lawmakers would be following in the long American tradition of state governments being at the forefront of the effort to protect Americans from the abuses of monopolies. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, in sectors from telegraphs to banks to pharmacies to railroads, state governments put in place rules to ensure fair competition and access to markets, and to structure commerce so that businesses were competing on the merits of their ideas and quality of their products, not on their ability to become gatekeepers or seize public resources. Reining in Big Tech will require the same commitment from state lawmakers today.