How a compliance mindset undermines antitrust reform proposals

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks via video conference during an Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, on "Online platforms and market power. Examining the dominance of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple" No Use UK. No Use Germany.

The CEOs of America’s most powerful technology companies went before Congress recently to answer questions about their growing role in the U.S. economy. Lawmakers grilled the CEOs on their business practices and whether it is time to curb their companies’ market power. But for antitrust to work in the digital era, it must go beyond its traditional focus on market power to consider questions of public interest.

For years, technology ethicists have considered how to square the interests of major companies with the interests of society as a whole, and recent approaches to ethics in the technology industry provide a cautionary tale for antitrust policy. Our data ethics research shows that Big Tech companies tend to approach challenges from the perspective of compliance: that as long as a company ticks the boxes on a checklist, it is in the clear. While checklists can highlight concerns, they do not necessarily lead

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