The tech giants’ law-free bonanza is coming to an end on both sides of the Atlantic, but let’s speed up the process

It’s always risky making predictions about the tech industry, but this year looks like being different, at least in the sense that there are two safe bets. One is that the attempts to regulate the tech giants that began last year will intensify; the second that we will be increasingly deluged by sanctimonious cant from Facebook & co as they seek to avoid democratic curbing of their unaccountable power.

On the regulation front, last year in the US, Alphabet, Google’s corporate owner, found itself facing major antitrust suits from 38 states as well as from the Department of Justice. On this side of the pond, there are preparations for a Digital Markets Unit with statutory powers that will be able to neatly sidestep the tricky definitional questions of what constitutes a monopoly in a digital age. Instead, the unit will decide on a case-by-case basis whether a particular tech company has “strategic market status” if it possesses “substantial, entrenched market power in at least one digital activity” or if it acts as an online “gateway” for other businesses. And if a company is judged to have this status, then penalties and regulations will be imposed on it.

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