1/4 Proposed AT&T-Time Warner deal illustrates once again how oligopolistic US business tends to become. Not a problem IMHO as long as…— Murli Ravi (@murli184) October 23, 2016
2/4 …real competition possible. In A) networks-effects-based firms which B) become dominant over time, A & B both vital, hard for new rivals— Murli Ravi (@murli184) October 23, 2016
3/4 to fight incumbents. That's why, say, retail, energy, real estate and on-demand taxis don't merit the same level of anti-competitive— Murli Ravi (@murli184) October 23, 2016
4/4 scrutiny as say, AT&T-Time Warner, MS Windows, big airlines and Facebook.— Murli Ravi (@murli184) October 23, 2016
You read that right. I don't think Uber merits anti-trust scrutiny (yet) and do think Facebook does. There are plenty of competitors as well as business model reasons that act to keep Uber on the straight and narrow (mostly). Facebook? Nope.
Does this mean Uber, Airbnb and Amazon will never need to be monitored? Of course not. Do I mean to imply that Facebook is in fact acting in an anti-competitive manner? No, because I don't know.
Also, does my highlighting Facebook imply that all other social networks merit the same degree of scrutiny? No. Or at least, not yet. Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest and arguably even WhatsApp don't qualify as dominant even though they obviously have huge network effects.
Another thought to keep in mind is that competition regulators might be better off cooperating with each other, sharing information and formulating regulations holistically, rather than trying to regulate companies in a patchwork manner. The cost of not coordinating efforts is that some of the most sophisticated, fast-moving companies play off regulators against each other. Companies that fulfil my conditions A and B above have long since become pan-national and regulatory actions taken at the national level cannot possibly be sufficient.
I do acknowledge that what I am saying is much easier said than done because of conflicting objectives such as the desire to build up national champions at the expense of external interlopers or differing cultural values on issues such as consumer privacy and wage policy. That's without even considering the cost, time and expertise involved in coordinating large multi-agency efforts.
Then again, if, say, multiple national police agencies can cooperate on criminal investigations spanning multiple jurisdictions, then that could well offer a template for anti-trust agencies to explore.