GLOSSARY – Words matter, whether it’s the terms developed by researchers, or the ways in which firms use language to smooth over and distract from their business strategies.



ACADEMIC CAPTURE

When a corporation’s support for academic research orients the objectives and outcomes of that research towards the interests of the corporation or its industry. Academic capture raises serious questions about the integrity and independence of research while potentially contributing to the broader dynamics of regulatory capture.


BIG TECH

Tech that is too big. Also known as the group of multinationals from the tech sector who enact outsized economic, political, and regulatory influence wherever they operate. Big Tech tends to share a belief that democracy slows down their “disruption” and is not worth respecting. It can refer to the FAANGs: Facebook (now Meta), Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google (now Alphabet). Other firms include Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Palantir, Tesla, TikTok, and Uber.


CULTURAL CAPTURE

Cultural capture is a regulatory capture tactic in which regulating agencies and officers begin to think like and share the interests, values, and vocabularies of the companies they are responsible for regulating. The revolving door is an effective and continuous delivery mechanism for cultural capture.


KEY OPINION LEADERS

In the case of, say, Huawei, the “former politicians, university professors, lawyers and business people” who can help nudge regulation or even legal proceedings in a direction favourable to them.


MEDIA CAPTURE

Capture of public discourse through direct funding of news media outlets, or through selective access to sources and preferential treatment. Other means of influence may include the judicious application of advertising dollars in directions that are useful and less protected by traditional journalistic ethics, including branded or quietly sponsored content. Media capture is a form of  “soft pressure” that differs from traditional forms of censorship or thought control.


RADICAL TRANSPARENCY

A cultural shift towards a default of absolute openness in procurement and decision making. Meanwhile, Big Tech exploits the strictest non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, and continuously cracks down on whistleblowers.


REGULATORY CAPTURE

When public policy and regulation are designed in the interests of private industry rather than in the interest of the public. Sometimes the tactics of regulatory capture are subtle, sometimes they’re overt, but the general result, to varying degrees, is regulation being written or applied to the benefit of the regulated industries themselves.


SELF-REGULATION

The idea that an industry should, for the most part, be self-regulating and enforce its own norms in accordance with clearly delineated standards and practices, and be allowed to operate with as little government intervention or oversight as possible. In response to public criticism and demands for more oversight, Big Tech, having so far largely avoided regulation in many key areas (see “Tax on Innovation”), routinely promises to step up its powers and mechanisms for self-regulation, in an effort to forestall the prospect of independent oversight.


SHADOW PUBLIC SERVICE

The increasingly substantial tranches of the public sector outsourced to private contractors, in particular to consultancy firms. These firms, including many with strong industry ties, act as de facto human resources departments, only without the same baggage of transparency or pay that comes with public sector staffing.


STRONG AND WEAK CAPTURE

According to Daniel Carpenter and David Moss in their conclusion for Preventing Regulatory Capture, “strong capture” results in regulation that clearly harms the public interest. “Weak capture,” on the other hand, refers to regulation that isn’t as oriented towards the public interest as it could or should be, but isn’t inherently harmful. Most, if not all, regulatory systems are weakly captured in various ways.


TAX ON INNOVATION

A term used by Big Tech firms when regulators propose to apply taxes on their services, even existing taxes already paid by all other players in their space such as Canada’s Goods and Services Tax, or GST. Firms tend to claim that consumers will not purchase products or services if they are taxed, or that it is unfair to the consumer to have to do so. A particular favourite of Uber’s.


REVOLVING DOOR

Career moves back and forth between positions of influence in the public and private sectors. The revolving door increase the potential for regulatory capture through both a shift in default values and behaviours, such as cultural capture, and the direct manipulation of policy and regulation, such as judicial or legislative interference.


THE “CIRCULAR”

A rotation through the revolving door, in which an individual moves from the private to the public sector then back to the private sector again, bringing with them their knowledge from the government but more importantly their contacts. Significantly, a move not covered by the Lobbying Act.


THE “ENTRY” STAGE

A revolving door move in which industry executives leave their positions to join or “enter” the public office tasked with regulating their industry. According to Stéphanie Yates and Étienne Cardin-Trudeau, because of public officers’ allegiance to their former industry, lobbying is de facto exerted, “from within.” Significantly, a move not covered by the Lobbying Act.


THE “EXIT” STAGE

A revolving door move in which government staffers leave or “exit” public office for a private position, whether to work explicitly as a company employee or as a lobbyist or consultant for a company or industry recently within their regulatory purview. The only move covered by the Lobbying Act.





ABOUT US


The Regulatory Capture Lab is a new collaboration between the Centre for Digital Rights and FRIENDS. Together we are building a clear, research-informed picture of how decision-making works in Canada, to document the crossover between public offices and corporate interests, and to stimulate debate about power and influence in Canadian digital policy. Contact us at info@regulatorycapturelab.ca.


            

Research support for this project was provided by students from McMaster University’s Master of Public Policy in Digital Society program.

Graphic art by Atelier Michèle Champagne. Edit by No Media. Read our privacy policy.


ABOUT US


The Regulatory Capture Lab is a new collaboration between the Centre for Digital Rights and FRIENDS. Together we are building a clear, research-informed picture of how decision-making works in Canada, to document the crossover between public offices and corporate interests, and to stimulate debate about power and influence in Canadian digital policy.

Contact us at info@regulatorycapturelab.ca.








Research support for this project was provided by students from the McMaster University’s Master of Public Policy in Digital Society program.

Graphic art by Atelier Michèle Champagne. Edit by No Media. Read our privacy policy.