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How to Regulate Big Tech

Having benignly neglected big technology companies for years, democratic governments are now producing a dizzying array of policies to regulate them. The risk is that the flurry of policymaking will overcorrect and do more harm than good, not least by unintentionally stifling innovation and competition.

STANFORD – Two years ago, it seemed clear to me that a combination of factors would lead to increased calls to regulate technology companies, especially Big Tech giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. When that happens, I argued at the time, regulatory policy would have to strike a sensible balance between mitigating the most harmful effects of technology and allowing tech companies to continue improving people’s lives.

Now that day has arrived, and achieving such a balance will be difficult. Having benignly neglected these companies for years, democratic governments are now producing a dizzying array of policies to regulate them. The risk is that the flurry of policymaking will overcorrect and do more harm than good, not least by unintentionally stifling innovation and competition.

There are at least four separate regulatory policy issues that need to be addressed: privacy, market power, free speech and censorship (including inappropriate content), and national security and law enforcement. Tech-sector policies must therefore be narrowly targeted and carefully crafted to minimize the risk of counterproductive outcomes.

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