Big Tech & Antitrust Conference



We invite paper submissions for “BIG TECH & ANTITRUST—COMPETITION POLICY IN THE DIGITAL AGE,” a conference co-hosted by the Information Society Project (ISP) and the Thurman Arnold Project (TAP@Yale) to be held at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut, on March 28-29, 2020.

Seven of the ten largest companies globally are technology giants, and in many jurisdictions, scholars, lawmakers, and the public at large have articulated concerns that Big Tech has become too big. Many critics have called for a revival of stricter antitrust enforcement, more assertive antitrust authorities, and a general rebalancing of economic power. These new policy proposals challenge long-standing assumptions in antitrust and competition law and may threaten existing business models.

This conference aims to explore the role of antitrust and competition law in shaping the future of the digital economy. The conference will discuss what kinds of harms antitrust law needs to address in the digital age and how they can be specified and measured. It will also consider the relationship between antitrust law and broader concerns—including privacy, innovation, and inequality. Finally, the conference will consider policy recommendations, including changes in the interpretation of antitrust laws and doctrines, enforcement practices, and the institutional organization of agencies. We encourage submissions from all disciplines that contribute to related legal, economic, regulatory, or policy discussions, including:

  • Fundamental Questions of Antitrust and Competition Policy
    What is the purpose of antitrust and competition law in the 21st century?  What new concerns do digital businesses present?  In what way, if at all, has market concentration impacted innovation and what consequences would stricter antitrust enforcement bring? How can (or should) antitrust law contribute to addressing inequality, autonomy, choice, and inclusion in the digital economy? What is the relationship between competition policy and the preservation of democracy? To what extent can antitrust enforcement contribute to more effective privacy protection? Are there First Amendment problems with antitrust regulation of digital media companies, and if so, how should they be addressed?
  • Market Structure
    What structural changes to digital markets beyond antitrust can or should contribute to fostering competition? How should we best address challenges in markets for digital advertisements that fuel social media platforms? How can the market for digital advertising be reformed to better foster journalism? To what extent can or should we rely on alternative economic models (for example, cooperatives), as a balancing force to a digital economy driven by network effects? What market structures, if any, could help foster privacy, and what are their trade-offs?
  • Market Power
    How should we think about market power in a digital and platform-driven economy? When defining markets and assessing market shares, what should be the determining factors? Do we need new models and quantifiers when applying antitrust to Big Tech? How should we evaluate the aggregation of data? The role of attention? What role should potential competition play in assessing market power of Big Tech? How can we best conceptualize and reduce barriers to entry—especially those caused by network effects—for start-ups and emerging technologies? What role, if any, should the concept of essential facilities play in the digital economy?
  • Harm
    What kinds of harms should competition law be concerned with, and how can we measure these harms? How do we locate and measure consumer welfare losses in the digital economy? What are the alternatives to an exclusive focus on consumer welfare?  How do we measure these effects on the digital economy? Do we need to rethink differences in the treatment of unilateral conduct and agreements as well as in the assessment of vertical and horizontal constraints? What can we learn from antitrust regimes in jurisdictions outside the U.S.? Which approaches have proven helpful?
  • Enforcement Actions
    What are the most effective kinds of enforcement? With respect to break-ups, what are the most suitable fault lines within companies? Should we concentrate on undoing mergers of the recent past and why? Do we need to reconsider standing assumptions about the costs of enforcement versus the costs of non-enforcement in innovation-driven winner-takes-all markets? Do we need neutrality regimes for platforms and what kinds of neutrality requirements, if any, can we derive from antitrust law? Should the law impose greater limits on self-preferencing activity in vertically integrated platform-based companies?
  • Mergers
    What standards should we apply to future mergers in the digital economy? What can we learn from the mergers that have created the Internet giants of today? Which restrictions have proven helpful, and what are their enforcement costs? What type of “output” increases should count towards changes in consumer welfare? What weight should we give to the impact of mergers on innovation?
  • Institutional Design
    Which institutions are best equipped, and what institutional set-up would best contribute to promoting competitiveness in the digital economy? To what extent is or should antitrust enforcement be left to ordinary democratic politics? With what levels of independence, resources, and powers should we endow antitrust authorities? What can we learn from the build-up of institutions in the financial sector after the financial crisis?

Please submit 500-word abstracts to by October 31, 2019.
Selected papers will be due February 15, 2020.
Attendance of the conference is not conditional upon submittal of an abstract or the selection of a paper, but limited by capacity; registration will open in December.
For any further questions, please feel free to contact Nikolas Guggenberger.

The Information Society Project (ISP) is an intellectual center at Yale Law School, founded in 1997 by Professor Jack Balkin. The ISP explores issues at the intersection of law, technology, and society. It supports an international community of interdisciplinary scholars work to illuminate the complex relationships between law, technology, and society. The ISP produces scholarship, convenes legal experts, and hosts events to foster the cross-pollination of ideas and spark new collaborations.

The Thurman Arnold Project (TAP@Yale) launched in fall 2019 in response to the growing interest in competition enforcement by scholars, students, and the general public. The project is named in honor of Thurman Arnold, Yale Law Professor and head of the Antitrust Division from 1938-43, to capture the intellectual and enforcement tradition he represented, as well as his zeal for achieving competitive markets for the people of the United States. The project was founded by Professor Fiona Scott Morton, an economist at the School of Management, and is designed to bring together Yale scholars and students who are interested in antitrust to engage with one another and create rigorous antitrust research and policy, disseminate it, and enable links to enforcement and regulatory policy.