Yale School of Management

Thurman Arnold Project at Yale

Digital Platforms and Antitrust

TAP@Yale seeks to improve our understanding of how digital platforms—and the different economic models that sustain them—impact  both the nature of economic competition and the benefits accruing to consumers in price terms, but also in variety and quality of content, and in innovation. This understanding will help us develop new analysis that can lead to effective antitrust enforcement that protects consumers and content providers in these markets, and also to advance the thinking on regulatory solutions that would lay the foundations for competitive markets and also monitor conduct to sustain competition.

Digital Platform Theories of Harm

The challenge taken on by TAP students in the 2019-2020 school year was to write a series of digital platform theories of harm. The students divided into teams to cover 4 platforms and 5 theories. They used public information to make arguments about anticompetitive behavior and harm in each setting. Below are the five papers that resulted. The students presented their findings to staff and Commissioners at the Federal Trade Commission in May 2020.

Paper #1: Amazon

Paper #2: Apple

Paper #3: Facebook

Paper #4: Google Ad Tech

Paper #5: Google Mobile

Digital Tech Acquisition Datasets

TAP research assistants scoured resources in the Yale library and public resources to identify all acquisitions made by Google and Facebook over the last ten years. As much information about each one as we could find is included in the spreadsheet. Many thanks to Maria Casasnovas and Mark Rosenberg for their work and to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth for providing a grant for these datasets.

Facebook Acquisitions

Google Acquisitions
 

Digital Tech Reports

Roadmap for a Monopolization Case Against Google Regarding the Search Market (2020)

The report lays out what it calls a pattern of conduct that Google has engaged in to entrench its dominance over the past 10 years — from acquiring rival upstarts to signing exclusive contracts to changing its platform in ways that disadvantage competitors. And it outlines how the Justice Department and the states could address those actions by bringing an antitrust case accusing the company of monopolistic behavior.

Roadmap for an Antitrust Case Against Facebook (2020)

Using public information gathered by the U.K.‘s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), U.K’s House of Commons Report on Disinformation and Fake News, and other sources, this  policy paper describes a clear theory of how Facebook may have potentially violated antitrust laws in the US, assuming that the facts mirror those found in the UK.  The paper details three sources of anticompetitive conduct that Facebook appears to have engaged in.

Roadmap for a Digital Advertising Monopolization Case Against Google (2020)

The paper presents robust evidence to support a potential antitrust case against Google based on its apparent dominant position and alleged anticompetitive conduct in the digital advertising market. Building upon public information gathered by the U.K.‘s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the paper shows that Google appears to have abused the apparent monopoly power of its search engine as a springboard to obtain unprecedented control and ownership at multiple points in the digital advertising “tech stack”.

Committee for the Study of Digital Platforms Market Structure and Antitrust Subcommittee (2019)

(informally known as the Stigler Report)
A committee of scholars chaired by Fiona Scott Morton issued a report in May 2019 outlining consumer harms caused by the market power of digital platforms like Google and Facebook, and proposing updated antitrust enforcement and regulation to address them.

New Competition Framework for the Digital Economy: Report by the (German) Commission ‘Competition Law 4.0’ (2019)

This commission was set up by the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy in September 2018, and tasked with drawing up recommendations for the further development of EU competition law in light of the new challenges of the digital economy.

European Commission: Competition Policy for the Digital Era (2019)

Commissioner Vestager has asked Jacques Crémer, Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, and Heike Schweitzer to explore how competition policy should evolve to continue to promote pro-consumer innovation in the digital age.

European Law Institute: Model Rules on Online Platforms (2019)

ELI Project Team has drawn up a set of Model Rules that is meant as a contribution to the ongoing debate and provides a ‘visualisation’ of how a balanced approach could look, if regulatory action is considered necessary.

U. K. Competition and Markets Authority: Online Platforms and Digital Advertising Market Study Interim Report (2019)

Publication of interim report and consultation on whether to make a market investigation reference (final report due in July 2020)

Unlocking Digital Competition: Report of the Digital Competition Expert Panel (2019)

(informally known as the Furman Report)
This expert panel was asked to consider the potential opportunities and challenges the emerging digital economy may pose for competition and pro-competition policy, and to make recommendations on any changes that may be needed.

Modernising the Law on Abuse of Market Power: Report for the (German) Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (2018)

This report looks at whether a modernization of the (European and German) rules on the abuse of market power is needed.

Litigation
 

Brave’s Complaint

Brave, a  free and open-source web browser, filed a formal GDPR complaint against Google for infringing the GDPR “purpose limitation” principle. Enforcement would be tantamount to a functional separation of Google’s business.

Williams-Sonoma’s Complaint

Williams-Sonoma, a retail company that sells kitchen-wares and home furnishings, filled a formal accused Amazon.com of selling unauthorized Williams-Sonoma merchandise on its website. It also claimed the retail giant “unfairly and deceptively engaged in a widespread campaign of copying” designs of its West Elm furniture for its own furniture line, Rivet.

Online Merchant Complaint

An online merchant has accused Amazon.com Inc. of forcing him and other sellers to use the company’s expensive logistics services, which in turn forces them to raise prices for consumers. 

Consumer Privacy User Profile Complaint

This lawsuit, which stems from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is about Facebook’s practice of sharing its users’ personal information with third parties.The plaintiff sare current and former Facebook users who believe that their information was compromised by the company.

Amazon MFN Complaint

These plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of themselves, and as a class action, seeking damages and injunctive relief pursuant to federal law and pursuant to various state antitrust, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, and consumer protection laws of the states against Amazon.