Six bipartisan anti-Big Tech bills passed at the committee level Thursday and now head to the House floor, marking Washington’s most significant and serious attempt to reshape the technology industry.
The six sweeping antitrust bills aimed at reining in tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook passed the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday by narrow bipartisan margins after over 24 hours of debate and over a year of investigations into anticompetitive practices in the tech industry by the panel.
The legislative package, which represents the largest expansion of the federal government's antitrust powers in generations, has received rare bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee — as well as opposition to the bills from members of both parties.
The bills are expected to face an uphill challenge and intense debate on the House floor thanks to opposition from centrist Democrats, one of the largest caucuses in Congress. Many of them say that some of the bills are too broad, could harm innovation, and result in unintended consequences to consumers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has endorsed the bills and is expected to bring them to a vote on the House floor later this year.
"There has been concern on both sides of the aisle about the consolidation of power of the tech companies, and this legislation is an attempt to address that," Pelosi said during a press conference on Thursday morning.
Democrats from California, where Silicon Valley and many of the tech companies are based, were particularly opposed to many of the bills. California Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell, Zoe Lofgren, and Karen Bass said Wednesday that many of their constituents could be affected by the legislative package and so wanted more work done on the bills before a House vote.
On the other hand, many Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan of Ohio, oppose the bills because on the grounds that they fail to address censorship of conservatives online.
“These bills on a bipartisan basis are not ready for prime time yet. You'll see some Democrats saying exactly the same thing as well,” Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, a member of the House antitrust panel, told the Washington Examiner.
“If they make it out of the House and get over to the Senate, they'll face a challenge there as well,” Issa said.
The antitrust package, “A Stronger Online Economy: Opportunity, Innovation, Choice,” consists of five bipartisan bills drafted by lawmakers on the House Antitrust Subcommittee that would make tech user data portable, restrict acquisitions by Big Tech platforms, block platforms from selling on the marketplaces they control, stop platforms from unfairly giving preference to their own products and services, give state attorneys general more control over where antitrust litigation is conducted, and provide more resources for the two federal antitrust agencies.
The bills are targeted at tech giants with a market capitalization of over $600 billion and at least 50 million monthly users or 100,000 business customers, such as Amazon, Apple, and Google.
Some Republicans, including Jordan, have said they plan to put out their own tech reform bills that focus almost exclusively on reducing censorship online by allowing users to sue Big Tech platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Furthermore, the legislation would make it significantly easier to break up the companies altogether.
However, many prominent Republicans are aggressively promoting the antitrust package, including House antitrust subcommittee ranking member Ken Buck of Colorado, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah, and Rep. Chip Roy of Texas.
Buck and Gaetz said multiple times during the package markup on Wednesday that the bills were "conservative" in how they were written, would address the issue of censorship through increased competition, and would increase innovation by forcing Big Tech companies to play more fairly.
“I think Congressman [Andy] Biggs was absolutely brilliant when he made an argument that the only way to deal with conservative censorship, the primary way to deal with the discrimination is the antitrust laws in these bills,” Buck told the Washington Examiner.
Buck said that there was no censorship of conservatives on cable news and in newspapers because of the large number of outlets and choices available, but that the lack of alternatives in social media platforms has led to censorship online.
“This is the starting point on the House floor after we've had many relevant investigations and hearings, and now, the job is to come to an agreement between the two sides, and I hope everybody does that in good faith,” said Buck.
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Original Author: Nihal Krishan
Original Location: Bipartisan crackdown on Big Tech sent to House floor