Lina Khan could just be the leader to sharpen the teeth of Governments around the world in the battle to curb the power of big tech.
Khan was sworn in as Biden’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair, and the decision has already attracted praise from any quarter that believes that big tech is now too big for its boots.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a high-profile campaigner against the market dominance of Google, Facebook, Amazon et al. said: “With Chair Khan at the helm, we have a huge opportunity to make big, structural change by reviving antitrust enforcement and fighting monopolies that threaten our economy, our society, and our democracy.”
The news is welcome in those quarters not just because Khan is against too much power in the hands of a few vast corporations but also because she has already caused a shift in thinking about how to curb that power.
Back in 2017, Khan published the ‘Amazon Antitrust Paradox‘ in the Yale Law Journal, in which she argued that the world needs more than curbs on price to manage the power of the few.
The New York Times described it as “reframing decades of monopoly law.”
We have been saying for a while that the power of big tech, driven by social media, is now at least equal to the power and influence of Governments around the world, so Khan’s election will be welcomed further afield than the US.
Already the counterattack has begun, with antitrust cases blossoming from Australia to India, across Europe, Asia and the US. The arrival of Khan at the helm can only boost that initiative.
There will be a temptation to say, ‘well, that is the US, and what do we do’ but Khan is an international player. Born in London, she moved to the US with her parents when she was 11 and having accomplished much in the world of antitrust debate, and she was listed as one of Foreign Policy’s ‘Global Thinkers’ in 2018.
Not surprisingly, none of the big tech companies commented on the news, and the only statement of note came from a group whose board boasts representatives from big tech, who could only really point out that big tech was preferable to unknown smaller companies, the implication being that they were probably spying on us.
On paper, Biden’s move to put Khan in the driving seat bodes well for the global movement to stop big tech from getting any bigger. Maybe the reverse will be true.
The proof, however, will be in the pudding.