M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 96

Time to Fix It: Developing Rules for Internet Capitalism

Tom Wheeler, Senior Research Fellow with M-RCBG and the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy



"Modern technology platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are even more powerful than most people realize," Eric Schmidt wrote in 2013 when he was Executive Chairman of Google’s parent Alphabet, Inc.1 In the years since, that power and its effects on society has only increased – as has the public’s apprehension about the power of technology.

Multiple times daily, each of us experiences the benefits offered by these platforms. From the ability to search the world’s knowledge, to communicating with friends, to hailing a taxi or ordering a pizza, the digital platforms – enabled by digital networks – have transformed our lives.

At the same time, these digital platforms have aided Russian interference in the electoral process, impacted child development, and propagated disinformation, bigotry, and hateful speech. Economically, these platforms have also devastated the economic underpinnings of quality journalism and established a level of marketplace dominance not seen since the early Industrial Revolution. These results were never imagined in the halcyon early days of "Move Fast and Break Things." Today, such threats are alarmingly manifest.

Things have indeed been broken. The question is what can be done to fix it? More specifically, will the leaders of the technology companies that created this new reality take the lead in resolving these challenges?

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