The backlash against tech giants
has reanimated interest in antitrust
recently, thanks to major fines in the European Union and the unsettling prospect of Amazon moving into your neighborhood through its acquisition of Whole Foods
. The rebel yell
to break up big tech is not sitting right with Joshua Wright, former FTC commissioner and professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. Last week, Wright started using the hashtag #hipsterantitrust (first coined by Kostya Medvedovsky
, an antitrust associate at Dechert LLP) as a pejorative to describe some of the younger and more zealous antitrust experts who are pushing for a new standard to measure whether a company has engaged in antitrust practices.
Senator Orrin Hatch, who advocated for an investigation of Microsoft back in the day, didn’t take kindly to the term. Hatch delivered a statement on the increased controversy over antitrust in the tech sector
on the Senate floor and took the opportunity to clear his good name.
“Professor and former FTC commissioner Joshua Wright has referred to this peculiar set of proposals as ‘hipster antitrust.’ Well, as you might imagine, Mr. President, nobody would mistake me for a hipster. So, for my part, and for ease, I’ll go ahead and call it the progressive standard,” Hatch said.
Last year, Hatch alerted
the chair of the FTC about new evidence in the agency’s case against Google. The FTC investigation, which closed in 2013, looked at whether Google had engaged in anticompetitive conduct by favoring Google products and services in search results, citing a paper by former FTC adviser Tim Wu, in partnership with Yelp, which found that Google’s OneBox (the pop-up of listings and a map for local search results like a restaurant) reduced consumer welfare
But in his remarks today, Hatch distanced himself from the hipster-progressives, who want to “pursue everything from industrial democracy to campaign finance reform to material leveling” rather than using the accepted standard of consumer welfare.
“Truth be told, as a proposed replacement for the consumer welfare standard, the progressive standard leaves me deeply unimpressed. From what I can tell, it amounts to little more than pseudo-economic demagoguery and anticorporate paranoia,” he said.
WIRED has reached out to both Hatch and Wright and will update the post if we hear back.