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Khan: Government isn't the enemy of startups

Feb 27, 2024
FTC chair Lina Khan speaking at a lectern with a blue backdrop

Khan at RemedyFest on Tuesday. Photo: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Lina Khan, the FTC chair known for shaking things up in antitrust enforcement, said Tuesday that things have dramatically changed when it comes to the government and its role in business.

Why it matters: Whether it's traditional Big Tech companies or AI insurgents, Khan has her eyes on what she views as gatekeepers of the digital economy, and those firms should expect continued strict scrutiny as long as she's in charge.

At RemedyFest, held by Bloomberg Beta and YCombinator, she said:

  • "Nearly 40 years ago, President Reagan famously declared that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'
  • "Today I might offer a slight revision. For many developers and startups, the most terrifying words in the English language are maybe 'I'm from the App Store developer support team, and your application has been rejected.'"

Asked how regulators can apply remedies to competitive issues in AI, such as companies making major investments in AI firms, Khan said:

  • "We've seen similar dynamics where you have firms that are effectively serving as infrastructure or essential services for other parts of the economy, and the ways that they can be using that to then distort or squash competition across players."
  • "For lawmakers and policymakers who have a broader set of tools at their disposal, beyond just antitrust and competition, really mining that full toolkit that we've used, including things like structural separations … is going to be key."
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