Investors now expect some of the regulations adopted by the European Union to become law in America. Unannounced passing on of private information of Facebook users will end, reducing the social network’s ability to provide its advertisers with specific targets for their sales pitches. Google’s alleged practice of providing its own mapping and other services with preferred positions on its search results will end. And the social media platforms might be held liable for defamatory content, just like print media.
Perhaps most important, antitrust regulators are beginning to ask whether Facebook and Google have been able to nip competition in its incipiency by buying up start-ups that might bloom into competitors. And whether Amazon has been able to accomplish the same objective by announcing plans to enter any market that some newcomer eyes, cutting off the prospective competitor’s source of capital.
Makan Delrahim, the Department of Justice’s chief trustbuster, is discussing with state attorneys general whether Facebook, Google, and other Valley companies might be hurting competition. Rohit Chopra, head of the Federal Trade Commission, has hired Amazon critic Lina Khan, presumably to develop a case against the internet retailer. And David Cicilline, who will chair the House subcommittee responsible for antitrust policy, says “Facebook cannot be trusted to regulate itself.” Apple’s Tim Cook, unreluctantly and with malice aforethought, comments, to his competitors’ consternation, “I’m a great believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working.” To which Harvard University’s media center adds that Facebook’s and Google’s digital advertising platforms undermine user privacy and provide an incentive for bad actors to organize disinformation campaigns. With a firing squad such as that forming, little wonder that investors wonder whether the intended victims can continue to grow earnings at past rates.