THE ISSUE OF WHETHER AND HOW to regulate digital technology and the biggest tech companies is drawing increasing attention, and Kennedy School experts are helping shape the debate. As the reach of digital technology and the power of Big Tech increases, several faculty members, including Jonathan Zittrain, the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and also on the faculty of the Kennedy School, are working with research fellows at the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy to tackle a broad set of questions on internet and platform regulation, including whether the biggest platforms should be broken up. In recent white papers and conferences, Shorenstein Fellows Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; Philip Verveer, an influential Washington communications lawyer; and antitrust expert Gene Kimmelman have recommended approaches to internet regulation reform that invoke historical analyses of previous monopoly industries such as the Bell System phone conglomerate.
Code of Conduct
Jason Furman, a professor of the practice of economic policy and formerly chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, has also turned his attention to the digital economy and the concentrated power of the largest tech companies. As the head of a U.K. government panel examining competition in the digital economy, he called for government policies that, he argued, would unlock competition and provide greater benefits to consumers and continued innovation. This approach, detailed in a report presented to the British government in March, proposed giving people more control of their data, allowing businesses to work with government to establish a digital platform code of conduct, and creating a digital regulator to oversee the fast-moving market. (Furman is currently advising the government on how to establish that digital regulator.)
Dipayan Ghosh, a research fellow at the Shorenstein Center who previously worked at Facebook and in the White House on digital policy issues, is quoted widely in the media on how to hold the big platforms accountable. He has written two “Digital Deceit” white papers that analyze the major tech platforms’ business model; Ghosh says that model encourages the spread of misinformation and propaganda because they sell better than truth and sober debate do. To protect authentic democracy, Ghosh calls for “a new digital social contract” that promotes privacy, transparency, and competition.
Photos by Raychel Casey, Jessica Scranton, Martha Stewart