Digital Empires: The Global Battle to Regulate Technology

Digital Empires: The Global Battle to Regulate Technology


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The global battle among the three dominant digital powers—the United States, China, and the European Union — is intensifying. All three regimes are racing to regulate tech companies, with each advancing a competing vision for the digital economy while attempting to expand its sphere of influence in the digital world. In Digital Empires, her provocative follow-up to The Brussels Effect, Anu Bradford explores a rivalry that will shape the world in the decades to come.

Across the globe, people dependent on digital technologies have become increasingly alarmed that their rapid adoption and transformation have ushered in an exceedingly concentrated economy where a few powerful companies control vast economic wealth and political power, undermine data privacy, and widen the gap between economic winners and losers. In response, world leaders are variously embracing the idea of reining in the most dominant tech companies. Bradford examines three competing regulatory approaches — the American market-driven model, the Chinese state-driven model, and the European rights-driven regulatory model — and discusses how governments and tech companies navigate the inevitable conflicts that arise when these regulatory approaches collide in the international domain. Which digital empire will prevail in the contest for global influence remains an open question, yet their contrasting strategies are increasingly clear.

Digital societies are at an inflection point. In the midst of these unfolding regulatory battles, governments, tech companies, and digital citizens are making important choices that will shape the future ethos of the digital society. Digital Empires lays bare the choices we face as societies and individuals, explains the forces that shape those choices, and illuminates the immense stakes involved for everyone who uses digital technologies.


Communications Law | Law | Science and Technology Law




Oxford University Press


New York, NY


"Anu Bradford provides a holistic and balanced view of the three competing regulatory systems at the intersection of technology and society. Digital Empires is a must read for anyone seeking to understand what's at stake in developing a practical regulatory framework that serves the needs of people everywhere."
Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President of Microsoft

"Anu Bradford's Digital Empires is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the regulatory choices confronting governments that seek to reign in big tech. The US, China and Europe have chosen different paths, and Bradford carefully breaks down the legal and political contexts of each. Bradford's voice is clear and reasonable and this book is a tour de force."
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel laureate 2001 in economics

"It is easy to forget that the future of the big tech is not just the question of what Europe, China or the U.S. will do, but how it all comes together. Anu Bradford offers the single best approach to understanding these interactions to make sense of an otherwise bewildering present and future."
Tim Wu, Special Assistant to President Biden for Technology and Competition Policy, 2021-2023

"This is the definitive account of the fierce and hugely important fight within and among "digital empires" — the United States, China, and the European Union — over the shape of our digital lives. Among its important conclusions are that the European rights-driven regulatory model, rather than the American market-driven model, is best poised to unite the democratic west and challenge China's growing control in the digital realm."
Jack Goldsmith Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"Digital Empires is essential reading for all policymakers wanting to understand the drivers and implications of conflicts that threaten the global nature of the digital economy. Bradford offers a nuanced and highly compelling account of a digital world between decoupling and continuing globalization."
Pascal Lamy, Director General of the WTO, 2005-2013

"Digital Empires describes the coming race between the US, China, and the EU to impose their regulatory models and set the norms that govern the global digital order. The outcome of this struggle will shape the geopolitical map in unimaginable ways. A thoroughly researched, extremely readable, and perfectly timed work."
Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group and author of The Power of Crisis


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Financial Times Best Books of 2023, Economics.

Digital Empires: The Global Battle to Regulate Technology

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