Transcript: The New Economy Series: The Era of Winner-Take-Most Economics
Jeanne Pratt: Bonjour. Hello. Welcome to the 8th session in the New Economy Series, created in partnership between the Canada School of Public Service and the Centre for International Governance and Innovation. My name is Jeanne Pratt. I'm going to be the moderator for our discussion today. I am the Senior Deputy Commissioner at the Competition Bureau, which is an independent law enforcement agency that administers and enforces the Competition Act. My day job involves overseeing a dedicated team of public servants who investigate anti-competitive conduct and mergers in order to ensure that Canadians don't pay higher prices or have fewer or lower-quality options.
Our discussion today relates to a topic that my colleagues and I are grappling with in our day-to-day work: the challenges and opportunities of the dynamic, data-driven economy. While this was an important topic before the pandemic, the acceleration and adoption of digital during the pandemic makes it even more topical than ever.
Before we begin our discussion, just a few administrative points. La traduction simultanée est offerte dans la langue de votre choix par l'entremise du portail. Des directives à cet effet de même que le texte d'exposé aujourd'hui vous ont été envoyés en même temps que le lien vers la webdiffusion. Simultaneous translation is offered in the language of your choice. You can find instructions to access the translation services in the email that was sent to you following your registration for the event. We will have a question and answer period for the final 30 minutes of the event and you can submit your questions at any time during the event by clicking on the person raising their hand in the corner of your screen.
Now, with that out of the way, on to our discussion. I just want to set a little bit of context before we turn it over to our panel of experts. Digital markets have fostered disruptive innovation that has fundamentally changed numerous industries and how consumers interact and participate, not only in the economy but also as members of society. Much of the disruption has stimulated competition and innovation among market participants as they try to use data and technology to build a better choice at a lower price and improve information for consumers to make a more informed choice.
At the same time, there are attributes of digital markets that can magnify competition issues. When conditions are right, there can be a tendency for these markets to be controlled by a single firm or a small group of firms. In the competition world, we call this tipping, and it's most common where firms benefit from a combination of three things: strong network effects, economies of scale and scope, and access to large volumes of data.
What do we mean by network effects? They exist when the value or benefit to a particular user depends on the number of other users. Where network effects are strong, markets can get concentrated, as users are likely to experience greater value with more users. This then presents a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem for competitors. In order to attract users, they have to be perceived as valuable, but they're not going to be perceived as valuable unless they have a lot of users.
Another key attribute of some digital markets is that data is a key input. Search engines are a good example. They're more likely to produce better results when they receive a lot of queries on a wide variety of topics. This potential benefit of data, known as a user feedback loop, is one of the ways that a data-rich incumbent can use its data to beat out rivals. As a competition law enforcer, the prospect that problematic conduct or mergers could lead to quicker, bigger, and irreversible anti-competitive effects due to tipping keeps me up at night.
In terms of problematic conduct, some argue that tech giants operate as gatekeepers who can exclude access to essential inputs and discriminate in favour of their own products. Concerns have also been raised about tech giants buying start-ups to stop them in their tracks before they become competitive threats. We call these killer acquisitions.
At the Competition Bureau, we're prioritizing digital matters and investing in tools to support an intelligence-led approach to detection and investigation so that we can be as efficient as possible with the limited resources we have to detect, investigate, and challenge problematic conduct and mergers. We're not alone in doing so. The past five years have seen a proliferation of competition law investigations, litigation, and administrative penalties totalling multiple billions of dollars around the world. In Canada, we've conducted major investigations into Google, Apple, and Facebook, with other digital economy investigations in the pipeline that are keeping our staff very busy.
At the same time, jurisdictions around the world are taking a close look at whether our existing competition policy frameworks are up to the task. The European Union, Australia, the UK, and the US have all completed in-depth studies and enquiries that have produced recommendations for various changes to existing competition policy frameworks that range from tweaks to fundamental change. We haven't yet had this competition policy debate in Canada, but we are watching the debate going on amongst others closely.
Key questions in those ongoing debates include: what issues could or should be addressed through competition versus other policy instruments? How does content, speech, or privacy intersect with competition policy? What will Canada's response be to these issues? How will the digital giants respond to these efforts? Are the giants too big and too powerful to regulate? Will they threaten to exit Canada as they have done in other jurisdictions, like Australia?
As you can hear, there are a lot of questions and I have no answers, which is why I'm very happy to introduce the three experts that all bring deep and unique perspectives to the discussion.
Three video windows appear alongside Jeanne's.
First, we have Professor Christopher Yoo.
Christopher smiles. He is an Asian man with short black and grey hair. He wears glasses, a white button-down shirt, and a black sport coat. He has a custom Zoom background of two large side by side buildings, one half in an older brick style and the other side in a modern glass-panel style. In the top left corner is the logo for Penn Law.
Professor Yoo is the John H. Chestnut Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer and Information Science and the founding director of the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Competition at the University of Pennsylvania. His current research projects include comparing the US, European, and Chinese responses to antitrust liability for high-tech platforms. Welcome, Professor Yoo. Next, please welcome Taylor Owen.
Taylor gives a small wave. He is a white man with short brown hair, black glasses, and a white button-down shirt. Taylor sits in a living room. Behind him is a couch, various chairs, and a table lamp. A few pieces of art sit on a fireplace mantle against the wood grain walls.
He's an associate professor at McGill and host of Big Tech with Taylor Owen. He is the Beaverbrook Chair in Media, Ethics, and Communications, and director of the Centre for Media, Technology, and Democracy in the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University. Welcome, Professor Owen. Last, but certainly not least, is Canadian competition law expert Melanie Aitken.
Melanie smiles. She is a white woman with ear-length blonde hair. She wears a white blouse. Melanie has her camera angled up, so we see the corner windows behind her intersecting with the wood-tiled ceiling.
Melanie is co-chair of Bennett Jones Competition and Foreign Investment Law Group, and she has extensive competition law and litigation experience gained in both the private sector as well as senior counsel with the Department of Justice and as a senior executive at the Competition Bureau, including as Canada's Commissioner of Competition from 2009 to 2012. Welcome to all of you. To start us off, I'd like to ask each of our panellists to identify some of the key attributes of digital markets that you think distinguish them from traditional markets. Let's start with Melanie.
Melanie Aitken: Thanks so much, Jeanne, and thank you for the invitation to be part of this really interesting session. I'm pleased to be here. When we talk about digital markets, as Jeanne has well situated us, we're really talking about marketplaces, whether they be for goods, ideas or information that have features to monetize for shareholders the value that is sought by those seeking or those selling those goods, ideas or information. The key attributes that Jeanne referred to, it's this idea of these powerful network effects, and it's really owing to the economies of scope and scale.
The example that I was going to give, that Jeanne has almost effectively given, was just that the easiest way to think about it is that the Google search engine just gets better the more we use it. There's a reason that when we get all up in our worries about privacy, we try Bing and then we immediately switch back to Google because the results that you get are just better the more people that use it. This is self-perpetuating competitive advantage that derives from the economies of scope and scale. These platforms and these markets have become a must-access type of place. For the seller, he has to be there. For the consumer, they want to be there. For the advertiser, they have to be there. It's just become this thing that has to be part of their world.
There are obviously derivative effects from that. The risks have been described, as I think Jeanne referred to, one of the three powers. There's a gateway power, and that is this ability to determine who's in and who's out and to set the rules of access to your platform and to your market. Another is leveraging power. That's the idea that you're dominant in one place and you're able to, in some neighbouring market or some neighbouring activity, exercise and leverage that dominance, so as to arguably create another area in which you are dominant, potentially without end. Then finally, the exploitation of information. Because they gather all the data from willing consumers, perhaps not well-informed consumers, but willing consumers, that gives them a bunch of different abilities to do things. If they are selling, for example, their products in competition with others, they can potentially, with all that information, make theirs just that little bit more desirable. They can exploit that data in other ways and they can also sell the data in ways that might be unanticipated and they can price discriminate, get to know you and your preferences, and they get to know your pain point, your threshold.
If you're interested, there's a very accessible article by Lina Khan at Columbia and it's called Sources of Tech Platform Power. I just find it a really easy read. I'm not a huge digital person by any means. I'm way too old and came to this too late. I actually find it very accessible in terms of thinking about it as a consumer. Is this a good thing net or is this a bad thing net? I don't necessarily agree with everything she says, but I think it's a really cool article.
In a nutshell, durable market power, this idea that the power is so strong that no matter what an enforcement official does, they'll never be able to do it fast enough, that even the most innovative new competitor is never going to be able to get in. There's this incentive to swallow rivals. Those killer acquisitions that Jeanne referred to, this idea that it's well worth paying more than something seems to be worth right now. In fact, it might not even be making money, but give them that payoff so that they don't have to deal with a competitor. Then there's just this vast reach that they have. They go into areas that are very far afield from competitive effects, but also do have competitive effects. The concern about transparency, that they're no longer competing for the market. While they may have been incredibly innovative to get to where they've been, which I think nobody could argue against, the incentive to continue to innovate may be diminished. So that's just a little bit of intro from me.
Jeanne: How about from your perspective, Taylor. Are there additional attributes?
Taylor Owens: Yes. As a caveat going into this, I'm in no way an expert on competition policy like the other two panellists and yourself as well, but I do study the digital ecosystem and increasingly the role that some of these large platform companies play in that ecosystem and the way governments are starting to engage in a policy discourse targeted at those companies and their attributes.
If you think of the Internet now, largely the western Internet—we can leave aside China for the moment, though I actually think there's a competition element to that conversation as well—but in the western Internet, most content and economic activity are filtered through five companies. A few attributes of the scale of those companies are beginning to become more and more apparent. The market power is massive. There's seven trillion dollars of value in what are four companies right now. A market cap that's doubled over the course of the pandemic, which shows some of that network effect challenge you're talking about. Value is accruing in those four countries, not being dispersed across the broader market.
The scale of operation of these companies is historically unprecedented. Facebook alone deals with 100 billion pieces of content a day. The scale of activity happening in each of these major companies is mind boggling. And there's increasingly substantial vertical integration in their business models and their spheres of influence, which I think, from a competition perspective, is probably a concern. If you get one company involved in a whole host of different domains and then using those data monopolies that they've been able to accrue in one sector and extending that into others, that clearly creates other competition challenges as well.
From a governance perspective, there are some real difficulties here. I'll just flag a few to help frame where I'm thinking on this. One is there's a real tension here between governments' innovation agendas and their competition agendas, particularly given the fact that a pretty laissez-faire approach to the growth of these companies by governments themselves is in part why they are so big. Yes, they provided great services, and they've been able to scale in really innovative ways, but they've also done so in a very lax regulatory environment up until now. It's difficult for governments to turn on a dime and start developing entirely new structures for competition policy, for example, when they haven't been there before.
Second, and this is a conceptual challenge, I think, what the discourse consistently falls into, is that the market dominance of each of these companies is very different for each of them. Even though we think of Big Tech or platform companies as one thing, the way in which they influence markets is very different across them. Amazon has a fair degree of dominance in online selling. Google controls access to the advertising that sits around search. Apple controls the App Store and charges rents on access to the App Store. Facebook has a relative monopoly over our social graph and is able to buy competitors and has been ruthless at buying competitors before they become profitable, like you mentioned.
These are all very different domains and problems. I think we need a policy solution that can address those quite different things while also talking about this digital phenomena as having some core attributes that we might find worrying. The final one is that—and again, people here know way more about this than I do—but it just feels like the toolkit and the language of competition policy that's been used and evolved over 50 years isn't necessarily aligned with some of these attributes. The consumer harm conception is just not easily applicable to free services. We might need to broaden that conversation as well. I'll leave it there, but I look forward to learning from the others more than speaking.
Jeanne: Professor Yoo, I think you'll have something to say on the attributes of digital markets for sure. You've studied them quite extensively.
Christopher Yoo: Yes. To take up some starting pointes that Taylor gave—he teed up a lot of points really, really well. There's a tendency to use the word Big Tech, which really invites us to lump four firms together, typically Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook—a search company, a social media company, an e-commerce and cloud company, and basically a device manufacturer. And we're supposed to condemn them together. Taylor put it really well: these are radically different companies and they have different attributes. It's, like you mentioned, vertical integration. We used to think it was really bad, but what we've learned is it's contextual. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. What we really need is a more nuanced and empirically based assessment to really sort these things out.
As both Jeanne and Melanie have mentioned, a big issue here is network effects. This is a great issue that goes back to—there's a great mention of it in AT&T's 1908 Annual Report. This is something that's been well recognized about network industries. The idea that big is always better, infinitely, we have a name for them in fraud and enforcement. Those are called pyramid schemes, which is that you can actually continue to grow and grow and grow forever. In fact, there's points of diminishing returns. The idea that every connection is equally valuable, just keep adding them, is not going to be true.
In addition, the idea that network effects would work the same in search and social networking and e-commerce and cloud devices also is unlikely to be true. It would be a remarkable coincidence. We see, for example, in some of the US debate, and I'm thinking now about the House Staff Report issued by Representative Cicilline, they say there is some bad conduct by Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. Therefore, we're going to condemn dominant platforms generally without actually analyzing whether some of those were specific to the specific industries that they were in, and then propose reforms that really have nothing to do with the platforms but are generally changing merger presumptions for health care firms and everything across the board.
What I find really missing is a rigorous analysis. To me, this is where competition policy is fit for purpose. That's classically what it does. You talk about cases, not these broad-brush painting of aspects. I do think that they need more resources. They may need more engineers on staff. There are some issues about how we'd have to reform the agencies to have them deal with a very complex problem. I think that the idea of just assuming winner-take-all across all markets is improper because it's not going to be the case. We see multiple travel sites surviving side-by-side, in some industries differently. Winner-take-all is typically based on the assumption that if you pick one, you don't pick any of the others. I know I watch my kids look for tech trends. My kids are on about five different types of social media all the time, and it's not an either/or for them. In fact, it makes the entry paths much easier.
Jeanne mentioned Big Data. I'm not a big fan of the term Big Data because, again, it encourages just a look at the volume. What we discover is different industries use different data in different ways and there's more leverage and less leverage. A classic thing that I've written a little bit about is between structured and unstructured data. Actually, for structured data, you don't need a lot. The algorithms are really available. For unstructured data, you need lots and lots of it and you need a lot of data scientists to help you sort it out. Without drawing even that basic distinction, you can't really understand how that creates the market power.
I do think that there is an established toolkit, but the key for me is to put consumers first. A lot of discourse is talking about "this company is disadvantaged and that company is disadvantaged." What we've learned in traditional competition policy and competition law is sometimes what's bad for competitors is really, really good for consumers. Rigorous competition always creates winners and losers. Someone thinks, "That's not fair." I understand where that comes from, but as a policymaker, you have to stand back and say what's really good for consumers, both in terms of the hard-fought competition and tooth and nail aspects of it, but also for innovation and new things that we couldn't do before and pushing out of the envelope. And all those have to be taken into account.
Jeanne: That's the perfect segue. A lot of people have been talking about the problems with tech giants, but let's talk about the good. What are the key benefits of the digital economy and data driven platforms for Canadian consumers and businesses? Taylor, let's throw that one back to you.
Taylor: We've seen over the last decade the incredible power of access to information and the type of collective action that's enabled, both in the market and in our social and political lives, by these very same network effects. There's absolutely no doubt about it. We can do things and say things and behave in a way that was largely unimaginable before we started using these tools. Part of the inverse of that, though, is that there's a tension between that empowering aspect, whether it's for businesses in the innovation space or social activist groups in the collective action space or political campaigning. We're heading into a place with the pretences of empowerment while significant filtering power and control are existing in the design of the companies themselves. That is where I think we really need to separate what behaviour is enabled by that design and how that behaviour is shaped by that design.
I think, increasingly, the competition conversation will need to engage with that tension. Is a filtering algorithm actually enabling diversity in the market, or is it shaping the market to conform with the incentives of the company that controls the algorithm, for example? Those kinds of questions of who is being empowered and who is in control really touches at the core, ultimately, of what competition policy is, which is ensuring there are fair markets and fair participation inside those markets.
Jeanne: Back over to you, Professor Yoo, just to do the counterpoint, maybe on the innovation piece and how competition drives innovation and what the benefits have been from an economic perspective.
Christopher: The benefits are huge. There have been some studies to try to estimate the value of the economy, of the online economy, and of the app economy. It's interesting because I think about old activities that are made easier versus new activities. I went to business school and I went to law school and they train you to think of this. All activities are so much easier now. The easiest example for me that we all understand is: remember when we used to plan vacations before the online world, we had to get guidebooks and Xeroxed pages along with us and have to plan out all our travel and every hotel. God forbid you have to be stuck in a town with the sun going down and you don't have a place to stay or a restaurant, navigating to those places.
Now, we do all those things on the fly and travel is trivia, but just communication with each other. Zoom and shopping during COVID have been a godsend. The online capabilities of doing that. Finding jobs, information about governments, access to financial services, news, video, and entertainment. It's incredibly beneficial and improved consumer information about products, about prices, about quality. All those things are pretty revolutionary.
In addition, we're doing a lot of new activities that we never did before. Social media didn't exist before. Cloud on the back office stuff didn't exist before. The sharing economy, the importance of user generated content, forms of political organization online are all incredibly important. Access to information about local news. All these new dimensions that are pretty astounding.
The other thing we talked about is entry and how things have changed. I do want to give it some perspective. When I started teaching back in 1999, we had an antitrust law in the US and the big problem was the pending merger of America Online and Time Warner. The big fight they were talking about was access to AOL keywords. It seems kind of quaint, but it goes to show how much has changed. At that moment, Amazon was a five-year-old company. Google and PayPal were one year old. Netflix was two. Facebook, Uber, Spotify, and Twitter were years from coming into existence. They all started out as these SMEs in garages. It's been this really dynamic form of entry.
I often teach classes by showing what the top 10 companies were by market capitalization in 1995. The companies are typically about a hundred years old at that point. They're really, really old. It took decades to get to be one of the leading companies in the world. All the companies there now, I think exclusively, are 20 to 25 years old, and a lot of them are 10 or less. What we see is this really dynamic vision.
Now, that's not to say there can't be problems. There can. We have to have tools that are designed to deal with that. We have to make sure that we don't kill the innovation drivers. One of the comments that Melanie made, which I'd really love to zero in on, is the idea of must-have content or must-have platforms or things. The must-have platform of Netflix as a video distributor is something that really came around in that revolution fairly recently. What you see now is a huge number of competitors going into that space and in fact, whether it's Hulu, Disney+ or HBO Plus, it's incredibly diversified.
What I really focus in on is whether there's entry barriers to see if that short-term advantage is going to be durable. We can actually do an analysis and make sure that we take a dynamic analysis and not an overly static one. It's actually easier for us to see if the entry barriers are low. This is a case where they had contracts that ran out, and when they came up, you saw this very dynamic form of competition emerge. We can think about this in different ways. Instead of saying it's really important now... If you think about static, in the here and now, that's a problem, but if you think about it over a five-year span with these new entrants, it looks a little bit different.
Last comment. Taylor, you mentioned the competition laws want things to be fair. I think that's right, but many times in competition law, that's a word that trips us up and a lot of people have to be very careful. It's fair from the standpoint of consumers, and a lot of the complaints now are coming from competitors. There is conduct where there actually can be harm. There are other times where they claim it's unfair because they didn't make the investments or have the foresight or the innovativeness to do something new. We need a set of tools that separates those two into different piles because if we don't do that right, we're going to penalize a lot of firms for doing exactly the kind of pro-consumer, pro-innovative conduct that we want, thinking that, "but because it disadvantaged one of the competitors who didn't make the same moves."
Taylor: You mean Facebook's argument of fairness shouldn't be the focus of a suit against Apple?
The four participants chuckle.
Christopher: It's funny. One of the things I love is when they talk about protecting the small companies, and the idea of Facebook or Apple needing our protection as a small company that's unable to handle itself is something that always strikes me in these debates.
Setting that aside, there are a lot of things that Facebook has done that have been unfair and a lot of it has been deceptive. They've gotten in a lot of trouble with the US regulators for that. We have a way of dealing with that. There are other problems where the bigger question from a competition law standpoint is, is this conduct so aggregated through this whole level starting to affect the competitive process? I teach my students, there is securities fraud. People lie about issuing a stock. It's a crime. We've got laws to deal with that. Competition people shouldn't become concerned until it becomes so pervasive or systemic that it starts to threaten the proper operation of the securities market, not just one issuer and one set of shareholders, but where it becomes a social problem. I think a lot of the fairness problems and the privacy-related problems in the tech space are the same. We have privacy tools and we generally deal with them pretty well. Is it possible that a privacy violation could arise to the point where it needs competition policy attention? Yes, but not when it is just a garden variety problem that we can deal with in a different way.
Jeanne: That's great. Just a plug to remind people that if you do have questions for our panel to put up your hand and submit them.
We've talked a little bit about the good stuff. Melanie, I'd like to focus a little bit more specifically on what the bad and the ugly may be of some of the digital markets. What are the areas of potential concern and debate?
Melanie: There are a lot of areas. There are some that are much more headline-grabbing than competitive effects that we all read about, incitements to violence and that sort of thing. That said, antitrust lawyers are enjoying an unusual and unfamiliar celebrity in these days, particularly in the run up to the US election and in the debate generally. There are some issues that—and this isn't my area of expertise—certainly do seem to me to more strongly and powerfully call for a public policy response, something along the extreme end of things like the incitement to violence. Maybe we'll talk about that a little bit later in terms of where you draw those lines, because even those lines are hard to draw.
But you don't actually see the platforms really pushing back all that hard on having some kind of regulation around incitement to violence and hate speech. The definition is still a problem. I think, in concept, they're more amenable when you start moving down the spectrum to the other types of issues, which can really defy an easy, clear line as to what is some sense of right or wrong. A range of issues that really define line drawing exercises. Here I think of things like diversity of voice, harm from echo chambers, and decrease to personal privacy. None of that is within my expertise so I'll confine my remarks to the competitive effects.
Those are real, whether it's—from whichever perspective you look at it from. I'm hesitating here because I think there's an important discussion to have at some point here about what's the focus. In Canada, we speak about how we are protecting the competitive process. I shouldn't speak for the US, but they speak of it in those terms as well, but with the consumer as the focus, whereas traditionally Canada has not focused on consumer. We focus on consumers and businesses. We look at the competitive process and try to find out what net is best for those groups, all groups grouped together.
One of the things I noticed from Taylor's remarks, and I totally understand that perspective, and I think there are a lot of people in this audience as well, is we grapple with what are clearly the overwhelming challenges in some respects. This desire to say not just whether we regulate—assuming that we do regulate—how we need to do it. I do really urge in this area—and again, this is my competition bias—but that regulation is not necessarily the first place to go. We have competition enforcement officials armed with tools that I think certainly they need to continue to grow and to expand and to try on different things. But they have tools. They don't have enough resources. But regulation is not necessarily the answer. It may be the answer for things like hate speech, but I'm not persuaded, at least yet, that it's the answer for competitive effects. A crisp definition of what it is you're trying to remedy is essential before you start jumping into designing a regulatory remedy.
In sum, to go back to your question, Jeanne, what are some of the potential concerns on the competitive side? We start to talk about them. It's a diminution of innovation spirit. It's stalling productivity as a result. It's the killer acquisitions, which could in turn increase the price. We all feel the prices have come down. Our access and the time frame within which we can achieve things and the range of choice we have in terms of our purchasing or searching for information are again, as Taylor said, unimaginable previously.
Just imagine the pandemic without what we have now. Just how different your experience of what was already a horrible experience, how much more horrible it might have been and how much more isolating it might have been. It could ultimately increase price if you don't have people nipping at the heels of those providing these valuable marketplaces for ideas and information and goods. Likewise, it could decrease choice. It could increase the opportunity for price discrimination. It could decrease informed consumer decision making. Again, as Taylor pointed out, I think that's a really interesting way to try to intercept competition policy with what are really other policy concerns. This idea that at the core you'd have these platforms actually defining the parameters of the universe within which consumers actually make choices. I think that's an interesting and intriguing way of looking at trying to connect the two. I'm not sure I totally go there, but I do think it's something worth talking about.
There's the risk of denying access to a valuable resource. Just because you have this data disadvantage and this idea that if you have distorted markets, if you accept that, they're not going to self-correct. That's where you need to try to be really crisp about what the distortion is. Is there actually distortion? If so, what is it? How, if at all, should we address it through regulation as opposed to, perhaps, competition enforcement?
Jeanne: Melanie has given a little bit of how to address some of the problems, but maybe, Professor Yoo, do you have anything to add on what the potential bad and ugly problems we're trying to scope are in terms of what the regulatory response should be?
Christopher: There are some interesting problems, and the thing that I want to really emphasize is we have to have a good understanding of the problems to be able to understand how to fix them. The remedy has to be tailored to the nature of the problem. We have to understand, is this a stomp on the brakes? Is it a tap on the brakes? Is it a turn of the wheel to steer? This is a big issue. I do think that there is a tendency to lump all, as we mentioned, our Big Tech into one or Big Data into big categories. The other terms I dislike intensely are GAAF and FANG based on the initials because it just invites you to gloss over important differences.
It returns to what I think of as a big-is-bad mentality and what we've learned over the years is that it is actually tied to an old paradigm in economics called structured conduct performance, where we didn't have good data on how markets performed. We didn't really understand how it tied to conducts. We just analyzed market structure. There was a big firm and we inferred that that would lead to bad conduct and performance. We've learned that that's been largely debunked in economics for at least 30 years. There are some market structures that are very concentrated that don't actually lead to bad performance.
There's a theory, just for people who want to look it up, called contestable markets that says that's the case. There are deconcentrated markets that perform very badly. Some price leadership models can actually do that. We've learned that different conduct makes a big difference. What we need to do is to understand how things work. One of the demons we have is algorithms. We should always remember algorithms are making enormous benefits possible. This is allowing us to process information, helping us in public health, and however many ways that we can think up. On the other hand, it's easy to demonize them and it feels weird.
There are different problems you can have with algorithms. You can have bad data used to train them as an in to create the model. After the model is created, you can feed them bad data inputs and you get bad results. Another thing that we know is algorithms have emergent properties that only show up at scale. All complex systems do funny things that you can't figure out by analyzing the component parts. All three of those are distinct roads to failure. Unless you really understand the problem you're dealing with and which road you're on, you can devise a remedy that won't solve your problem at all, and to try to figure out how things are going.
To a couple of things that Melanie mentioned, I agree with her skepticism a little bit about the regulatory solution. I actually had a chance to meet with both the ACCC and the UK on these issues, on different matters. I remember I had this moment, they both did an analysis in calling to regulation. I asked them at the ACCC, doesn't that mean you failed the conventional competition law standard because otherwise you'd just be bringing a case? They said, "We were kind of hoping no one would notice that." If you don't have something that meets traditional competition law standards, one of two things has to be true: either the competition law standards are wrong or it's not really conduct that's potentially culpable and we have to have that conversation to try to understand it.
The UK's Furman's Report draws largely the same conclusion, which is we have to keep a close eye on these. It doesn't pass the standards of problem now, but it might be. Again, it's one of those things where they haven't shown a demonstrated harm to consumers at that point. It's an interesting problem. The other thing about the regulatory move is that they invoke things like regulation of financial services and telecommunications without actually studying those industries and how that regulation has worked in the past.
In fact, one of the things I'm convening is a study group to look at these major industries and discover. In the US, they analogized the Glass-Steagall, which is the old financial services regulation that was repealed. There is robust financial, empirical, historical, business literature, legal literature exploring that Glass-Steagall wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. Now, maybe it has some strengths and weaknesses, but don't we have to at least look at the models that they're pointing and building on to try to learn from those before we start embracing them? I find it really complicated.
The last thing, to respond to something that Taylor said, and maybe this is a very distinctly US thing, which is we have an issue of diversity of voices, which in the US has largely dominated the communications industry by the Federal Communications Commission. But we have a First Amendment tradition that really draws on John Milton and the Areopagitica and John Austin from the 1830s that says there are many editors in this world, not all of whom are benign, but there is one actor who cannot be the editor, and that's the government. The idea of using regulation to correct a speech market to American eyes turns the First Amendment on its head. That is a particular conception of free speech that is not universally shared, but it is one that animates a lot of what we do. I do think even if it's not an absolute bar in countries that are willing to go that direction, it's at least a caution flag or a warning sign to have debates. Because in all this, we're talking about second bests. Is the cure worse than the disease? It's a question we always have to ask because we shouldn't assume that the government intervention process would be perfect.
Jeanne: Thank you. I think we've had quite a bit on problem definition, but Taylor, I'm going to throw it back to you. We do have a particular Canadian view of some of these issues. I'd be interested if you have anything to add on the problem definition aspect.
Taylor: A couple of things just building on those two really interesting comments and answers there. On the speech issue, it shows the complexity of trying to govern nationally, ultimately globalized technologies and companies. Speech, histories and traditions, and laws are fundamentally national and as they should be. The German government has a very different conception of hate speech than the American government for clear historical reasons. In my view, they should be allowed to impose their views of hate speech and their hate speech laws on platforms that happen to be based in the United States and which are rightly embedded with many of the First Amendment values and principles from the country in which they were invented. That creates a tension between national governance and the design and global nature of these companies.
The other challenge that I think this space really faces, and the second we get into the regulation conversation, it becomes really clear, is that these companies touch on so many potential regulatory tools and governance tools that governments need to make a decision on which tools they're going to use to address which particular harms. Often there's choices and potential overlap. If you think of this broad policy framework as having to deal with these harms, or however you want to define them, of data policies, a bunch of things we can do to regulate or control how data is collected and used, which we have a set of norms and principles for. Content policies, so all the different things we can do to regulate what is allowed to be said in our society, which we do already, and competition policies. These are three very different sets of tools that in many of the cases we're talking about when we talk about harms present choices, policy choices.
My belief is the principle guiding those choices should be which one gets at the most structural element of the problem. It's not applying policy after the fact and trying to retroactively fix the problem, but might actually change the incentives in the design of the system to lead to better outcomes in that space. If you look at harmful speech or disinformation and misinformation, one way at it is to regulate the speech, what is allowed to be said, which it seems to be the direction we're heading in Canada. It would never happen in the United States, obviously. It has already happened in Germany. We could penalize companies for promoting speech, getting around concepts of intermediary liability, which have protected them from that liability.
That's one framework, but another framework might be to provide more choice in the digital speech market. Right now, if I want to go to another platform than maybe Facebook or Twitter and the way they govern speech, I don't have a lot of options. It could be that a lack of dynamism in that digital speech market is leading to some of these challenges. Companies that have one set of values being promoted in this type of speech they allow. Data and privacy policies might be another thing. Either we break up the companies who have large monopolies of data, which would be a competition policy approach, or we develop better privacy laws and hope that that solves that problem.
It's the same thing, I think, in the innovation space where if we think there's a lack of innovation in the digital economy in Canada, we could fund and scale and incentivize Canadian companies to compete against the globally dominant firms, which would be an innovation policy entry point, or we could take a competition frame and either review or restrict mergers and acquisitions of Canadian companies by those foreign firms. Those are two very different ways of supporting that same policy outcome. I don't know if that confused it or focused it, but I think part of the challenge here is that these companies touch on so many aspects of our society and on so many governance tools that we have open to us. Governments need to figure out what their entry point is to each particular harm they might be concerned about.
Jeanne: That's a great question. I'm going to morph one of our questions from our audience into a question that I had for the panel. One of our public servants asks: what debates can we realistically have in Canada? To what degree are outcomes shaped by the American competition and antitrust context? Adding on to that, what are the areas of potential change in competition and consumer policy that can be considered and debated for Canadian consumers and businesses? Are changes to competition law on their own enough? What about the adequacy of privacy, speech content, and access to justice, among others? I'm going to turn that to you, Melanie, first to hear your pitch on what we should do about all the—
Jeanne's audio cuts out.
Melanie: There are a lot of really good questions in there. I'll just grab on to one of them. Some of the debate, obviously, does get shaped by the bigger and next-door neighbour. What's being talked about in the US and of course, always much more pro-regulatory or comfort with Regulatory European Commission. In terms of the very public and front page stuff, as Christopher referred to, there was this report that came out, the Cicilline report, and some other initiatives during the US election, like some of the proposals from Senator Klobuchar and others that captured the public imagination a little bit in terms of, they sound like they're really great ideas. Of course, it's really important not to dismiss or suggest that there hasn't been a lot of thinking going into it before they're soundbited. But really important to think about: what are the pros and the cons of those?
Three proposals to intervene. First, break them up. It really surfaced during the US election. A lot of talk about this. It's not a clearly defined idea, but it would involve some kind of forced separation of the businesses and the idea is to carve into the distinct lines of business. Take Amazon: carve away their cloud, carve away their hosting of third parties selling their goods, and carve away their own selling of their own goods. Carve them up into these different businesses and somehow the power, that gateway in particular, that power and that ability to leverage the information, those would be either removed or attenuated to some considerable extent and stripped of the value that is really derived from the complementary nature of those lines of business. The theory is that the incentives to sell, preference, et cetera, would disappear.
For those who are not just offended by the very idea of breaking up just because, which I guess I would number myself among, there are real questions in any event that are glossed over quite a bit by the rhetoric. Again, not to dismiss the genuine scholarship that has been devoted to this issue, but as Christopher said, big has never been bad—or for a long time, big has not been bad. There really just is this very fundamental idea that big is bad is imbedded in breaking them up in some not particularly thoughtful or principled, at least that I've seen yet, manner, other than just "you're big. We don't like that."
I think the really important questions are: what benefits might we be risking if we do that? We've been talking a lot about concerns, but there's a lot of benefits. What about the choice? The price? The innovation? The convenience? Are we going to risk losing all of those advantages if we just break up these big companies? Significantly, competition agencies do have the mandate to address conduct that is anti-competitive, that is engaged in by dominant enterprises. That's a pretty universal principle, differently spelled out, but existing in all mature antitrust jurisdictions.
Funding, as I pointed out, should be improved. Active enforcement against violators that are engaged in distorting business practices is arguably preferable to crude tools. Instead of just taking a carving knife. The second is prohibiting those killer acquisitions again, not terribly well defined, but some idea that if you're of a certain size, you can't make any acquisition of a company. The idea is that by disallowing them, the innovative upstarts will continue to contest and test the market and thrive and ultimately compete with the big boys.
What that theory fails to account for, at least among other things, perhaps, is that most, if not all, of those start-ups are not conceived with the idea that they will ever take on the big guys. The very motivation for their innovation and the very fundamental thing about them that attracts the investment capital is the idea that they will reach a payoff day. That they will sell out with their innovation and be embedded within, perhaps, an even better use of their technology with a bigger player. That the sum might be greater than the parts. If we outlaw the lure of that payday, there is the risk that it may never be engaged in the first place. Those "impossible" ideas will never get explored because the capital will never be attracted to it to fund the innovation necessary to develop it.
The third is, and I think we've been talking more generally, this idea of 'just regulate it'. The argument in favour to seek, to intervene, to protect certain kinds of players. Again, that's anathema to competition policy. We don't protect players. We protect process. We strive to protect a competitive process on the idea that it will be better for everyone. But if we decide we're going to treat it like a utility, that it has somehow tipped to the place where it has become effectively a utility, so goes the logic, then we will be able to access the benefits for all, not just the few. These huge enterprises will be stopped in their tracks in terms of gaining and benefiting from their alleged monopoly status.
There are a lot of implications to what admittedly is a well-intentioned idea, in my view. But with the greatest of respect and having spent half of my career in public service, I don't think the best talent of governments is necessarily picking the winners and the losers in the marketplace. That doesn't mean there's not a place for regulation. I just think it has to be incredibly, incredibly carefully approached and recognizing that actually that's why we put competition regulators in place, was to protect against abuses by those with dominant market power or material market power. When the businesses go too far in their practices, there is actually a way to address that.
It may be that agencies haven't been as effective or as active as they should be. The answer is to better resource them while still holding them accountable to establishing key things like the economic harm. I can assure you that there is no lack of will among antitrust agencies to take action—and nor should there be—against major players, whoever they may be. That may be a club you don't want to be a member of, but in any event, I've seen no disinterest in going after them. There are issues of funding, but if there is a will, my own personal view is you're better to try that. Take it out of the world of political gamesmanship, which we're seeing a ton of in the US influencing this discussion, and putting it in the hands of those who are in charge of protecting the competitive process.
Jeanne: That's great. I'm really happy to hear that there's consensus among the panel that we at competition agencies need more resources. I'm going to take that away and take that to the bank. Professor Yoo, I know you have a comment, but I'm going to couple it with a question from our audience. We are in the audience participation period. How do you balance supports for innovation and protection from harm? We've seen social media have quantifiable harms in social behaviour and mental health. Where does the responsibility for user behaviour begin and end for big data? Over to you.
Christopher: Because I had it queued up in my head, I'm going to riff on something Melanie said, and then I'll try to answer the question that you just directed. There's actually an interesting history about breaking them up and comparing the Canadian experience with the US experience. The first thing I did when I moved to Penn was to hold a 25th anniversary conference on the breakup of AT&T. A professor named Eli Noam from Columbia did an empirical study to compare the performance of Bell Canada to AT&T. It turns out, Bell Canada was never broken up and it did just as well as AT&T.
Now, I know not everyone is a fan of every company and all this, but my point is this is exactly the kind of study we need to think about, about structural remedies, which is people grab for them. They're very rarely used. There is actually literature studying that it had an impact. One of the great things that Melanie said is they're hoping by breaking up, let's say, Amazon, you'd avoid self-preferencing. Actually, there's a wonderful short article by my colleague, Herb Hovenkamp, who is probably the most senior respected antitrust scholar there is in the US. He says that self-preferencing on Amazon is really, really good. An example he pointed to is batteries. They're dominated by Eveready and Duracell and the price cost margins are huge. The private label brands by Amazon are undercutting those prices and making them more competitive. It's a really interesting question about understanding self-preferencing. When you have a consumer market where entry's low, it can incentivize a lot of really good behaviour.
The other thing about killer acquisitions I agree with, he said if you block acquisitions, you're cutting off part of the market for innovators, and that's going to reduce the value of those companies. Even if it's 10 percent of their exit strategy or 90 percent or anything in between, that's a really dangerous game unless you have a way to sort out which ones were going to make it on their own and which ones were destined for acquisition, and figure out which ones to block and which ones to allow.
Android was a six-employee, no-revenue company when it was acquired by Google. The idea that we could predict then that it would turn into what it was going to be is hard. On the other hand, both Samsung and Huawei have attempted to go back. What they did is go back to the original Linux or Android source code to create their own operating system because they're worried about it. They've been unable to do it. There is a value proposition. The contribution that's involved here that we have to take into account.
Now, in terms of the Canadian debate, something came up. Two quick thoughts. Melanie talks about protecting the competitive process. In the US, there's a broadening notion of what that might look like. The traditional notion is multiple players. This goes to Joseph Schumpeter's work, multiple players vying to sell the same product in the market. Schumpeter said an innovation-oriented economy is about out-innovating each other as opposed to actually competing in it. It might be a competition for the market and you might see a different dynamic take place.
The other thing that's interesting for Canada to consider is whether you want to go the national champion route. To me, the archetype here is Japan and Korea. There are some interesting problems with that. Those actors never challenge agency actions because they're collaborating with them and they regard them as friends. My friends who work at an enforcement agency in the US said, "That's great. We wish that would happen here." I said that the flip side is when they have trouble, it's your obligation to bail them out. If you're a partner, it's for the good and the bad. If you're really going to go that route, it's the whole hog. You've got to go that way. There's also a trade war question, which is if you're going to do that on a tit-for-tat basis, the risk is everyone does that and you're cut to your domestic market. I think for a country as small as Korea, with 50 million people, it's tough. Japan is 120 million. Their strategies are interesting.
In terms of what the solutions are about harm, there's a tendency to want competition law to do everything for everybody and there are fraud harms, which we deal with through consumer protection laws, which are different from competition laws, and there are other adverse problems. The thing that's on everyone's mind in the US is about deplatforming and speech. I'm going to say something that's not always very popular. I actually feel tremendous empathy right now for Twitter and Facebook because in most free speech issues, there's a way you can jump that is safe—just go away from the edge and it's clear, don't do anything. Right now, they're going to get hit if they exercise too little editorial discretion over their feed and they're going to get hit if they exercise too much. They have to hit the bliss point in the world where everyone has very different conceptions of what that bliss point is. If they had deplatformed candidates before the election or in the interim between the election and the insurrection on January 6th, there might have been very different reactions.
On some level, though, the US approach to free speech... the flip side is, they can deplatform as a private actor with no adverse consequences whatsoever. Why? It's entirely in their editorial discretion of what to do and they're ultimately serving their customers. If the customers want it or don't want it, it'll work that way. Mediate through all these imperfections because they're never perfect about doing that and they're always slow and late. There is some virtue to this. I do feel, though, when it comes to speech markets, unless you have a strong, robust notion of what that idealized version of the speech market is, you're going to be forcing people to do things they don't want to do, which puts you smack in the face of the notion we have of liberal theory, which is trying to empower people to do what they want to do and say, "that's what you want to do but that's not quite right." That's a tough move. That's one of the reasons the US has always taken the move it has.
Taylor: You raise an interesting point and I'd like to jump in there. Is the real competition problem in the speech space in the US, not government regulation or even what Twitter and Facebook have done, but rather AWS's
deplatforming of power, which was, like it or not, providing a very different value proposition over speech rules and a legitimate competitor to the way Twitter was deciding to moderate its speech, and perhaps having a dozen of these would allow for the market to provide choice to consumers over what kind of speech rules they wanted to participate in or spaces of the digital rules they wanted to participate in. I think there's a parallel move happening amongst the big platforms, which some people call content cartels, where they're essentially colluding with each other over how to make some of these controversial speech decisions so that they can act as a pact. There's some risk there, too, I think, from a market perspective.
Christopher: If the problem is collusion, we should go after the collusion and that's one thing that antitrust competition regulators have down pat. If that's the problem, we go after that problem. What's interesting to me is Amazon, from our standpoint, shouldn't have to do business in a fair—it reflects on them with whoever they want. Parler was down just a matter of weeks. They found another cloud service provider who was willing to support them. If they're out of step, this is the way you bolster competition in a space that frankly probably could use a little bit more competition.
The notion is if they have options, the idea this would cause structural harm to this market goes down. There's a much more vibrant set on the communications literature, because I'm also a member of the Annenberg, which is sometimes truth doesn't always out. There's a wonderful study by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who is the former Dean and now the Head of the Annenberg Public Policy Centre, that said the best salve to fake speech—biased speech—is not the truth, but it's equally biased speech in the other direction. Empirically, if that's true, that's a terrifying idea, but it actually might be. That's something that's well beyond our ability in competition law to address, because that's the general populace's inability to process information properly. We have a lot of faith in the robustness of individuals to do that. The whole system is based on that. That's why we have elections. If that's not true, that's going to require a pretty strong normative theory to actually figure out what to do.
Jeanne: It's a fascinating discussion. We're going to run out of time and I want to make sure we get to some of the audience questions. There is still time to submit questions. Please feel free to do that. There is a question that's come in: "the pro-consumer stance versus pro-competitor really resonates with me. What are your thoughts on basic remuneration? For example, it is currently difficult for artists to earn a half decent wage from their work while consumers now benefit from basically an endless stream of free content. Is it possible to balance the interests of both consumer and smaller producers of content?" Who wants to take that one?
Melanie: I feel like you're looking at me.
Melanie: Oh, good. You go for it, Christopher.
The panelists laugh.
Christopher: You're looking at all of us because we're looking straight ahead. There's an economics on this and basically it's not free content. It's advertising-supported content, and advertising markets have their own bias. Believe it or not, when I started teaching 22 years ago, I started writing about the broadcast television industry in ways that seem remarkably quaint right now because it's just not that big a deal. But there's a huge literature. Advertising-supported industries are biased. They underfund content. They do a lot of different things.
You see newspaper after newspaper try to put up paywalls. There are a handful of newspapers in the US who succeeded, the most significant of which is probably The Wall Street Journal. It's a really interesting idea to try to lean... The whole advertising-supported vision of content in newspapers was built on Sunday advertising circulars for grocery stores and department stores, legal notifications and classified ads. None of which have anything to do with content, and all of which are probably more efficiently done through other means on the Internet right now than through newspapers.
We had this really weird structure where we had funded content through other ways, and we're going to have to create a new system. There's a great literature looking at paid television versus advertising-supported television and the paid television, if you look at HBO and the Emmy Awards, it's just much better, higher quality, and it tends to work out that way. I think there's an argument for trying to change the way we move that would actually create much more—you can actually generate a lot more revenue on a smaller customer base through a different business model.
Unfortunately, we think about this as a media company or a search company or a social media company. I actually think you should follow the money and think about these as advertising companies and understand them that way and analyze markets that way, because frankly, it's not really a search, it's a delivery of eyeballs. However you can do that is probably a better way to think about it that might yield a more useful way to restructure the industry in ways that are positive. I think that we're seeing in a lot of creative industries new ways for artists to reach markets than they ever had, not dependent on whether it is movie studios or record labels or these sorts of things that aren't easy, but are more varied and more open in ways that I think people are starting to use to their advantage.
Jeanne: Melanie, do you have anything to add on that?
Melanie: I agree with that liberation point that there are now more platforms. I think there is one thing that, in fairness to Christopher, he may not appreciate. And maybe I'm hearing this question in a way that it wasn't intended. But when it comes to artists and it comes to content and CanCon and some of the things certainly have been issues of importance over the years in Canada, I think the really useful thing is to take what Christopher tells us and understand that as your basis. Follow the money. Figure it out. Then to the extent you have a policy goal that conflicts with that or just doesn't fit into it, it's perfectly legitimate to oppose it. I personally don't believe it and I think that demand should drive the production of content, but that's just my view. That's not a lot of Canadians' views. To the extent there is a political desire to make that space for those artists and for that content as perfectly legitimate, just design it in a way that appreciates what you're dealing with as your starting point so that you accommodate and you actually achieve the goals that you're striving to achieve.
Jeanne: That's great. There's a bit of a related question about the interface in our economy, about industrial policy versus competition policy. This is another question from our audience. If the digital market is increasingly picking a single or small number of winners, how should Canadian policymakers be thinking about supports for start-ups and helping businesses compete on a global stage? Do want to start us off, Melanie?
Melanie: Sure. I probably won't do the question justice. Yes, we are small, but if we pick the areas that we can devote innovative support to and we do it—we're never going to get it right all the time, but to the extent we try to surgically do it in the places where we think we have the greatest potential advantage, then how can that not be good for everyone? It's not to drive national champions, not at all, but rather to fund innovation that can then find its way so that it fits into some broader use or broader industry or whatever application that makes it extra valuable. That wasn't much of an answer. I would suggest that we don't throw our hands up and say, "I guess we're out because everybody's bigger." I think we still do it, but we try to find our special areas where we're really good at and try to support those and to do real industrial policy. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with that. It's just I think we want to do it with care.
Jeanne: Taylor, you look like you have something to say.
Taylor: This is another domain where, like the content, our broadcast policy, where we, as Melanie pointed out, have a set of objectives that were built for a different industrial era, and we can debate whether we should have protectionist content policies in Canada or not. It's pretty clear that the ones we have don't really apply to the digital ecosystem we now currently create and distribute and sell content in. There are almost two considerations there. Should we have this protectionist policy? And if we are going to do it, how do you do it in an intangible economy?
Those often get conflated, and the same thing happens with industrial policy. There is a question of to what degree we should preference Canadian actors in our economy. Then there's a question of how you do that, if you want to, in the current structure of the digital economy. We end up with these real tensions between something like an FDI industrial policy, which clearly would try to incentivize the platforms to invest in Canada, bumping up against a policy to support Canadian scaling companies which have to compete against those now subsidized foreign firms engaging for talent and resources in the Canadian economy. Those are in tension with each other. That doesn't help the conversation. Sometimes we're conflating objectives of these policies and whether we should be doing them or not with how you actually implement them in the digital economy at the moment.
Jeanne: Professor Yoo.
Christopher: Bigger isn't always better. Facebook started in a dorm room. Google tried to kill it. How many of you were on Google Buzz or Google+? They had four runs at it. They failed. My instinct is that there are good ideas that come out and I do think there's something about incubators. The beautiful thing about the Internet is you're actually not restricted to a Canadian market. If you come up with an idea, you can actually reach really, really broadly and you can get into global markets that way, and a lot of companies do.
What's fascinating to me is there are some studies of youth, comparing Europe and the US. Two thirds of American youth think they're going to start a business sometime in their lifetime and one third of European youth think that. Empowering them to do these things and then giving them the means to do it, may be the way if you want to do industrial policy. It may be more promising because the alternative is to throw money at it from the top down. The EU does that all the time, as far as I can tell, with very, very limited, if any, success.
Jeanne: That's great. We're running low on time. We've got about three minutes left. What I'll do is ask each of you for a last word before I thank you for that last word.
Christopher: Since my mic is actually still on from the last one, I'll go first. I'll just say this is an incredibly complex area and that we are at the beginning of a very long conversation. I would encourage people to think about something I was always taught to do as a young scholar. What could you show me that would change my mind? Because if the answer is nothing, then we don't really have a conversation. It's about politics. You'll go vote and that's fine. The place where we have a harder question is understanding the things that we need to understand better and figuring out what aspects of this are things that we need to study better, because there's a lot of things we don't know and there's a real tendency to do the fire-ready-aim problem. I think that that's got it precisely backwards and I think that we can take the time to try to make better policy by thinking about it in more systematic ways.
Melanie: Sure. Similar, I think. Don't jump. Don't panic. Don't jump to the regulatory fix. We're so blessed to have such an incredibly capable and competent public service that can study these issues. We're actually very open minded. I've always admired that about Canada. We look to Australia, we look here, and we look there. We don't just sort of blindly follow one tradition. I think that we should preserve and protect that approach. When it does come to actually considering regulation, to really make sure we know the target we're shooting at, make really sure we've got a crisp definition of the problem and a crisp, carefully designed regulatory solution to the extent one is needed. Otherwise, just give Jeanne more money. It's good. It's all good.
Melanie and Jeanne laugh.
Taylor: Yes. Just to add to that, we are not alone in this conversation with countries trying to figure out how to evolve, to govern in the digital domain. Yes, we're overly biased by our proximity to the United States, but there are a lot of similar sized countries exploring this as well. Part of what's interesting about this governance space right now is different countries are experimenting in different ways. There's just a huge amount to learn from what other countries are doing and how we can iterate on those and even collaborate. I think the competition policy space is ripe for more of that.
Jeanne: I want to thank all of you for an excellent discussion from a variety of perspectives on issues that, frankly, here at the Competition Bureau, we're grappling with every day and things are just getting faster. That dynamism and innovation is a good thing, but there are some challenges. More money might help, but there are still significant challenges for us. I think this is a key debate at a key moment in time, ten months into this pandemic as well. I want to do a thank you to all of you. A thank you to our audience as well for sending us some very interesting questions to stoke our conversation. I want to do a plug for the next event in the series, which will be in April, and it will be on the economics of attention. We hope you'll join us. With that, thank you very much for your attention for the last hour and 15 minutes. I wish you all a good day. Bye.
Jeanne smiles and the Zoom call fades out. The animated white Canada School of Public Service logo appears on a purple background. Its pages turn, closing it like a book. A maple leaf appears in the middle of the book that also resembles a flag with curvy lines beneath. The government of Canada Wordmark appears: the word "Canada" with a small Canadian flag waving over the final "a." The screen fades to black.