Yelp's Luther Lowe: Google fighter
Feb. 24, 2023 1:00 PM PST
Here’s something you don’t hear every day: “I'm a little bit jealous of my friends who are working inside government.”
Such is the rosy outlook of Luther Lowe, the 40-year-old senior vice president for public policy at Yelp, as he assesses the state of antitrust reform in Washington these days. Speaking over Zoom the morning after President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Feb. 7, Lowe was ebullient if not triumphant about the capital’s recent turn against big tech.
“If you would have told people four years ago that Lina Khan was going to be chair of the [Federal Trade Commission] and that last night the president, for the first time in 43 years, would use the word ‘antitrust’ in the State of the Union—I mean, I think the Overton window has shifted,” Lowe said.
Fellow travelers in the antitrust reform movement like to bring up the Overton window at least once in every conversation, referring to an ever-shifting range of policies that government officials and the public perceive as acceptable. For the past 40 years, antitrust law in the U.S. has centered on the theories of Robert Bork, the university professor and federal judge (and failed Supreme Court nominee), who held that the only test that mattered on antitrust was whether a company’s practices harmed consumers, typically in the form of higher prices. This stance is particularly appealing to a company like Google, whose core product, its search engine, costs consumers nothing.
On behalf of Yelp, his employer of 15 years, Lowe has been trying to shift that thinking.
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