Makan Delrahim, the top antitrust cop in the U.S., said Tuesday he's not concerned that a Supreme Court ruling this week will hurt the government's ability to rein in Big Tech. But, that doesn't mean he's ready to take action against any or all of the major tech firms.
"Just being big is not bad," he said during an on-stage interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival. "Being big, behaving badly is bad."
The standard: In order to take action, the Department of Justice must see proof of actual harm to competition, Delrahim said.
The context: Critics of large tech companies worry the SCOTUS ruling might offer Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Uber protection from antitrust prosecution because they use so-called two-sided marketplaces to connect parties (such as buyers and sellers).
What he's saying: Responding to a question from Axios, Delrahim said he didn't think the ruling would make it harder to go after Facebook and Google over competition concerns "for a couple of reasons."
- First, he said, each case is specific to the facts.
- Second, the ruling doesn't treat all two-sided marketplaces alike. While it might help protect Uber and Airbnb, which directly connect two parties, Delrahim said he wasn't sure that Google and Facebook would see their businesses similarly affected.
- Overall, Delrahim said he was pleased with the ruling in the case, and he added that a different ruling could have presented a greater hardship to the economy than just losing this case. He said:
"I was more worried the Supreme Court would come up with a test [that would] cause harm to new business models like Uber and Airbnb."
Two hats: Delrahim was also on the spot as a de facto representative of the Trump administration (the left-leaning event didn't have an easy time landing speakers from the administration). Asked how he felt to be a part of this administration as an immigrant, Delrahim said he was "proud to be serving in this or any capacity."
- He didn't speak directly on the immigrant detention issue, saying "people will have different views" and shifted the discussion to a lack of civil discourse.
"People run into their corners," he said, noting that there is little room for moderates in today's politics, or to find common ground. "There seems not to be a debate to understand each other. I wish there was more of that."