20201010 经济学人 Google, antitrust and how best to regulate big tech

Ex-antics

Google, antitrust and how best to regulate big tech
谷歌,反垄断和如何最好地监管大科技公司

Antitrust cases over past behaviour have proved mostly ineffectual. So regulators are turning their attention to forward-looking rules
事实证明,针对过去行为的反托拉斯案件无效。因此,监管机构将注意力转向前瞻性规则

2020年10月7日|旧金山

ANY DAY now America’s Department of Justice (DoJ) will file a lawsuit against Google, accusing it of abusing its monopoly in online search. It will be the first big antitrust case in technology since the DoJ went after Microsoft in 1998. Expect William Barr, the attorney-general, to flaunt this as proof that the Trump administration is uncowed by big tech.

美国司法部(DoJ)随时会对Google提起诉讼,指控其滥用在线搜索的垄断地位。自从美国司法部于1998年起诉微软以来,这将是第一起技术领域的重大反托拉斯案。预计总检察长威廉·巴尔(William Barr)会炫耀这一点,以证明特朗普政府不再受到大型科技公司的拥护。

Political posturing notwithstanding, the lawsuit will be no Google-slayer. Few states are likely to join the case. The firm’s broader advertising business will probably not be targeted. If the Microsoft trial is a guide, the ordeal will drag on for years and be distracting for Google. But it is likely to end in a forgettable settlement—even under a President Joe Biden.

尽管存在政治姿态,但这场诉讼绝非谷歌杀手很少有州会加入此案。该公司更广泛的广告业务可能不会成为目标。如果以微软的审判为指导,那么这场磨难将持续数年,并会分散Google的注意力。但是,即使在乔·拜登总统的领导下,它也有可能以令人难以忘怀的和解结局。

Potentially more consequential tech regulation is on the boil elsewhere, however. Many policymakers see antitrust suits filed after the fact (“ex post”) unfit for purpose in fast-moving tech markets. They are pushing for “ex ante” rules that would, as in other industries, constrain online platforms upfront. On October 6th a Congressional committee published a 449-page report on how America should update its competition law. Days earlier a laundry list of rules to be included in the EU’s Digital Services Act, an ambitious regulatory package expected in early December, was leaked. Will these efforts be more successful than old-school competition remedies?

然而,其他地方可能正在制定更为严格的技术法规。许多决策者认为:事后提出反托拉斯诉讼不适用于快速发展的技术市场,。他们正在推动“事前”规则,与其他行业一样,这些规则会预先约束在线平台。10月6日,国会委员会发表了一份长达449页的报告,内容涉及美国应如何更新其竞争法。几天前,欧盟的数字服务法案(预计将于12月初出台的一份雄心勃勃的监管方案)中的一系列规定被泄露。这些努力会比传统的竞争疗法更成功吗?

Start with the report, the result of a 16-month probe by the House of Representatives, led by David Cicilline, a Democrat. Despite America’s polarised politics, much of the diagnosis enjoys bipartisan support. The report “accurately portrays how Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook have used their monopoly power to act as gatekeepers to the marketplace”, wrote Ken Buck, echoing many fellow House Republicans.

这份报告的开始是由民主党人大卫·西西林领导的众议院长达16个月的调查结果。尽管美国政治两极分化,但大部分判断得到了两党的支持。肯·巴克写道,该报告“准确地描绘了苹果,亚马逊,谷歌和Facebook如何利用其垄断权来充当市场的看门人”,这与许多众议院共和党同僚的观点一致。

Predictably, the two parties disagree on what to do about it. Democrats want big tech firms to separate their main line of business from other activities. For example, Amazon could no longer sell wares under its brands on its marketplace, where it allegedly gives itself preferential treatment, including better placement in search results. Republicans reject such measures as too interventionist and propose to tweak existing antitrust laws.

可以预见,两党在如何处理上存在分歧。民主党人希望大型科技公司将其主营业务与其他活动区分开来。例如,亚马逊不能再在其市场上以其品牌销售商品,据称亚马逊在该市场给予自己优惠待遇,包括在搜索结果中的更好位置。共和党人反对过于干涉的措施,并提议调整现有的反托拉斯法。

Amazon disputed the report’s findings. “The presumption that success can only be the result of anticompetitive behavior is simply wrong,” it said. Apple, Facebook and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, issued statements to similar effect. Still, for anything meaningful to pass in Congress, next month Democrats must win not just the presidency but also, more fancifully, a big Senate majority that would allow them to push through bold legislation even if some party moderates are not on board.

亚马逊对该报告的调查结果提出异议。亚马逊说:“认为成功只能是反竞争行为的结果,这是错误的,”苹果,Facebook和Google的母公司Alphabet都发表了类似的声明。不过,要想在国会通过任何有意义的法案,下个月民主党不仅要赢得总统宝座,而且还要赢得参议院的多数席位,这将使他们能够推动大胆的立法,即使一些党内温和派成员不在国会。

Having already tried, without much success, to change the tech giants’ behaviour with antitrust probes and fines, the EU is betting on ex ante. Its big idea is to prohibit the big gatekeepers from engaging in “unfair practices”. The leaked paper lists 30 such practices, ranging from platforms favouring their own services to their refusal to work with competing ones.

欧盟已经尝试通过反托拉斯调查和罚款来改变科技巨头的行为,但收效甚微,因此,欧盟押注事前。其主要思想是禁止大公司进行“不公平做法”。泄露的文件列出了30种类似的做法,从支持自己的服务到拒绝与竞争对手合作。

If all the EU suggestions were enacted, gatekeepers would end up in a legal straitjacket. The proposals could weaken “network effects”—forces in online markets that let big firms get bigger. For instance, dominant messaging apps such as Facebook’s WhatsApp may be forced to accept messages from smaller ones. Platforms may be compelled to share data with rivals, removing a barrier to entry for newcomers.

如果欧盟的所有建议都获得通过,大型科技公司最终将陷入法律束缚。这些提议可能会削弱“网络效应(在线市场上让大公司变得更大的力量)”。例如,诸如Facebook的WhatsApp之类的主流消息传递应用程序可能被迫接受来自较小消息传递应用程序的消息。平台可能被迫与竞争对手共享数据,从而消除了新人进入的障碍。

As ever, the devil is in the details—with which the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is now grappling. What exactly counts as a gatekeeper? The number of users and revenue matter. But what about data assets, which are harder to measure? What data should platforms share? Interoperability between messaging apps would be welcome in some ways—as mobile providers must accept calls from rival networks. But it may harm competition between encryption methods, which interoperable apps would need to harmonise. Being too prescriptive could keep big platforms from innovating.

与以往一样,问题在于欧盟的执行机构欧盟委员会(European Commission)目前正在努力解决的细节问题。什么才算是看门人?用户数量和收入至关重要。但是,数据资产难于衡量。平台应共享哪些数据?由于移动运营商必须接受来自竞争对手网络的呼叫,因此在某些方面,消息传递应用程序之间的互操作性将受到欢迎。但这可能会损害加密方法之间的竞争,而可互操作的应用程序则需要协调这些竞争。过于规范性可能会使大型平台无法创新。

Eurocrats find themselves in what Mark Shmulik of Bernstein, a research firm, calls “a regulator’s dilemma”: coming up with robust rules that avoid unintended consequences. The commission’s answer is for its own experts, and perhaps a new agency, to decide on a case-by-case basis what activities are anticompetitive. Firms would have to prove they are not.

研究公司伯恩斯坦(Bernstein)的Mark Shmulik称之为“监管者的两难境地”:制定强有力的规则,避免意外后果。该委员会的答案是让其自己的专家,或者可能是一个新机构,根据情况决定哪些活动是反竞争的。企业必须证明自己不是。

Coming up with effective rules will take time—possibly no less time than antitrust cases. But it would be a historical anomaly if tech were not to be robustly regulated, as other systemically important industries such as banking and food were before it. The public seems ready: 72% of American adults say that social-media firms have too much political power, according to a Pew poll. So are smaller tech firms, which are pursuing their own, ex post efforts. Epic, which makes “Fortnite”, a hit video game, has sued Apple on antitrust grounds. Oracle’s crusade against Google over alleged copyright infringement, which the Supreme Court agreed to hear on October 7th, has an antitrust tinge. The techlash may be subsiding. The tech-slog has begun.

制定有效的规则将需要时间-可能比反托拉斯案要少。但如果不像银行业和食品业等其他具有系统重要性的行业那样,对科技行业进行强有力的监管,将是历史性的反常现象。公众似乎已经准备好了:根据皮尤(Pew)的一项民意调查,有72%的美国成年人说社交媒体公司拥有太多的政治权力。追求自己的事后努力的小型科技公司也是如此。制作热门视频游戏“ Fortnite”的 Epic 以反托拉斯为由起诉苹果。甲骨文(Oracle)对谷歌(Google)涉嫌侵犯版权的诉讼,最高法院同意在10月7日审理,此举带有反垄断色彩。

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