Friday, June 11, 2021
In Congress a Bipartisan Push to Rein in Big Tech
House lawmakers proposed a raft of bipartisan legislation aimed at reining in the country’s biggest tech companies, including a bill that seeks to make Amazon.com Inc. and other large corporations effectively split in two or shed their private-label products.
The bills, announced Friday, amount to the biggest congressional broadside yet on a handful of technology companies—including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as well as Amazon —whose size and power have drawn growing scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and Europe.
If the bills become law—a prospect that faces significant hurdles—they could substantially alter the most richly valued companies in America and reshape an industry that has extended its impact into nearly every facet of work and life.
One of the proposed measures, titled the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, seeks to require structural separation of Amazon and other big technology companies to break up their businesses. It would make it unlawful for a covered online platform to own a business that “utilizes the covered platform for the sale or provision of products or services” or that sells services as a condition for access to the platform. The platform company also couldn’t own businesses that create conflicts of interest, such as by creating the “incentive and ability” for the platform to advantage its own products over competitors.
A separate bill takes a different approach to target platforms’ self-preferencing. It would bar platforms from conduct that “advantages the covered platform operator’s own products, services, or lines of business over those of another business user,” or that excludes or disadvantages other businesses.
The proposed legislation would need to be passed by the Democratic-controlled House as well as the Senate, where it would likely also need substantial Republican support.
Each of the bills has both Republicans and Democrats signed onto it, with more expected to join, congressional aides said. Seven Republicans are backing the bills, with a different group of three signing on to each measure, according to a person familiar with the situation.
“Unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.), the top Democrat on the House Antitrust Subcommittee. “They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work. Our agenda will level the playing field.”
Rep. Ken Buck (R., Col.), the panel’s top Republican, said he supports the bill because it “breaks up Big Tech’s monopoly power to control what Americans see and say online, and fosters an online market that encourages innovation.”
Read the rest here.
Anti-trust laws have largely fallen into a coma over the last forty or so years and the new tech economy urgently needs some regulation. I haven't read any of these bills, but in principle I support doing something to check the dangerous level of power these monster companies now wield. The fact that both parties, that otherwise can't seem able to agree on what time their committees should take a bathroom break, seem to be moving in the same direction here, is encouraging.