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CHAPTER VI - Unfinished Business

In a number of areas, there was general agreement among the participants on broad principles for action but less consensus on the specific details. Thus, the group offered several high-level recommendations that would benefit from further analysis and more in-depth discussion.

For instance, several recent and emerging issues arising from the digital ecosystem may warrant some form of governance, such as algorithmic discrimination, data profiling, harmful speech and the rise of disinformation on digital platforms. Participants recognized these issues are complex and important, but they could not agree on whether or what specifically warranted further study or by whom, nor could they agree on the best way to study such issues. Safiya Umoja Noble suggested that any one of these issues could benefit from a more in- depth examination.

Similarly, while there was an effort to develop a recommendation regarding the potential for antitrust laws to be used internationally as a trade barrier and as a form of national protectionism, FCC General Counsel Alden Abbott urged caution given the complexity of ongoing international efforts in this area.

There also was some discussion, but not agreement, on whether and how to make the FTC’s consumer welfare standard more agile. Conference participants discussed a recommendation to consider whether competition review should take into account additional factors such as evolving business practices, new technologies, international developments and issues including but not limited to privacy, increased communications consolidation and research and development spending. This provoked a spirited conversation and disagreement among conference participants. While some argued that the language in the recommendation—“to consider whether” competition review should take into account other factors—was carefully crafted not to prejudge the answer, others were not convinced. With the FTC holding a series of public hearings on privacy, big data and competition, these issues are ripe for further discussion.

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