The internet economy has produced digital platforms of enormous economic and social significance. These platforms—specifically, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Apple—now play central roles in how millions of Americans obtain information, spend their money, communicate with fellow citizens, and earn their livelihoods. Their reach is also felt globally, extending to many countries around the world. They have amassed the economic, social, and political influence that very few private entities have ever obtained previously. Accordingly, they demand careful consideration from American policymakers, who should soberly assess whether the nation’s current laws and regulatory institutions are adequately equipped to protect Americans against potential abuses by platform companies.
The Program on Democracy and the Internet at Stanford University convened a working group in January 2020 to consider the scale, scope, and power exhibited by the digital platforms, study the potential harms they cause, and, if appropriate, recommend remedial policies. The group included a diverse and interdisciplinary group of scholars, some of whom had spent many years dealing with antitrust and technology issues.