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  • Writer's pictureAvesta Afshari-Mehr

Regulating Big Tech: Antitrust, Competition, and Consumer Protection

We all became much too familiar with the extent of power and influence big tech corporations like Tesla after Elon Musk’s influenced coup of Bolivia to obtain easy access to the country’s lithium reserves – and how puny we all become once such power is exercised. Such horrifying incidents highlight the pressing need for effective regulation and oversight of big tech companies, with tech giants like Apple boasting wealth surpassing that of several nations combined (like Turkey, Switzerland, and Israel’s GDPs combined), it becomes clear that their unchecked power raises concerns about accountability and the potential for abuse.

And the cost of living crisis has created a fertile ground for these corporations to amass further wealth while the population suffers, by profiting off of the hardships faced by the now very vulnerable consumers. Through practices such as price gouging and wage suppression, they have profited off the sufferings of the very people who are grappling with the increasing cost of living. Not to mention how, by suppressing wages and paying preposterously low salaries that fail to keep up with inflation and rising living costs, they perpetuate a vicious cycle of financial insecurity for their employees. And what do they do when these employees fail to work properly in these awful conditions? Lay them off and continue gaining further profit!

These abhorrent exercises of power over nations (and geopolitical events), as well as exploitative practices highlight the urgent need for regulatory measures and consumer protection laws to ensure that corporations are held accountable and that the burden of the cost of living crisis is not unfairly shouldered by vulnerable individuals. And the Conservatives have failed to address this – with Sunak instead choosing to give the very corporations that are increasing their power over the HM Government and its affairs tax cuts (calculated to £36 billion by Tax Justice UK in 2022!) while they continue their profiteering that contributes nothing to the economy nor to our citizens.

Now, regulating Big Tech isn’t about stifling innovation or impeding progress; but quite the contrary – rather, it is about striking a balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding the public interest, as well as national security. And the Shadow Secretary for Digital and Culture, Lucy Powell (who oversees tech policy) has consistently expressed the dire need to regulate these Tech Giants and has suggested vital protocols for scrutinising such corporations such as through the increasing of powers to regulators like Ofcom.

We must, as a Labour government, also be working to enforce and strengthen both competition and antitrust laws, wherein we prevent monopolistic practices and promote fair competition in the tech industry. This includes closely monitoring mergers and acquisitions to ensure they do not stifle competition or harm consumer interests. And by fostering a competitive environment, governments can encourage innovation, protect consumer choice, and prevent excessive concentration of power in the hands of a couple of dominant tech companies.

And personally, I believe we should follow in the footsteps of previous US administrations who spearheaded the mission to the Moon (Kennedy and Johnson); helped develop technologies like the internet (Reagan through DARPA); and pump funding into renewable energy and smart grids (Obama). It should be governments that spearhead these advancements – as they often have the population in mind and can ensure their advancements are regulated. It shouldn’t be these tech giants, who put profit before the people!

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