Should Google get treated like your local telephone company? The idea that dominant, front-facing internet platforms should be regulated as common carriers or public utilities has been kicking around for a while. But it got a fresh jolt in April, when Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas issued an opinion suggesting that common-carriage law could allow Congress to regulate social media providers. Ohio attorney general Dave Yost filed a lawsuit in June asking a state court to rule that “Google’s provision of internet search is properly classified as a common carrier and/or public utility under Ohio common law.” Last weekend, Yost published an op-ed in The New York Times touting the strategy as a way to stop Google from favoring its own business over competitors who rely on it to reach customers. “As legal touches go, it’s a lot lighter than what antitrust law would demand,” he wrote.
“This guy has made such a mess,” said Barbara Cherry, a professor of at the Indiana University Media School who studies common carriage and public utility law. “For a lawyer, it’s particularly sloppy.”