The Future of Platform Power: Reining in Big Tech

Issue Date July 2021
Volume 32
Issue 3
Page Numbers 163-67
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The technology base upon which democratic societies have relied has transformed rapidly in recent years, with precipitous breakthroughs in telecommunications, data storage, and processing power yielding a new media ecosystem dominated by a select few digital platforms. Empowered by capacities to collect data on a near-uninhibited basis, process that data to generate fine-grained behavioral profiles, and wield those profiles to algorithmically manipulate the individual’s media experience, the dominant internet platforms possess overbearing economic power over the consumer, the harms of which cannot be addressed merely by Fukuyama’s proposed policy requirements for sourcing of content moderation to middleware providers. The purpose of this essay is to clarify the connection between the business model of the digital platforms and the negative externalities they instigate. We conclude by proposing a more holistic view of the policy intervention required to renegotiate the balance of power between corporate and consumer—one framed by consumer privacy, algorithmic transparency, and digital competition.

About the Authors

Dipayan Ghosh

Dipayan Ghosh is codirector of the Digital Platforms and Democracy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

View all work by Dipayan Ghosh

Ramesh Srinivasan

Ramesh Srinivasan is professor in the department of information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

View all work by Ramesh Srinivasan