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Members of the House of Representatives introduced five bipartisan anti-Big Tech bills Friday intended to rein in monopolistic behavior by tech giants like Amazon and Google, including measures to split up parts of their businesses and make user data more portable.
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 companies from giving preference to their own products and services, and provide more resources for the two antitrust agencies in the federal government.
Each of the bills is co-sponsored by more than one Democrat and Republican, and more members from both sides of the aisle are expected to support the package in the coming weeks, a spokesman for the subcommittee said.
“Big Tech has abused its dominance in the marketplace to crush competitors, censor speech, and control how we see and understand the world,” said Rep. Ken Buck, the top Republican on the House antitrust panel. “This legislation breaks up Big Tech’s monopoly power to control what Americans see and say online and fosters an online market that encourages innovation and provides American small businesses with a fair playing field. Doing nothing is not an option. We must act now.”
Last year, the House Antitrust subcommittee, led by Democratic Chairman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, completed a 16-month investigation into the state of competition in the digital marketplace. It concluded the "unregulated power" wielded by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google significantly harms consumers, workers, and small business owners.
“Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy," Cicilline said in a statement Friday. "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 and ensure the wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us.”
In an interview with the Washington Examiner in March, Cicilline said that two areas of disagreement between the parties are bills that would allow the federal government to break up Big Tech companies altogether and anything related to content moderation.
Although there is no mention of online speech within the bills, House Judiciary Republicans have accused Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Amazon of bias and censorship against conservatives, and a Republican spokesman for the subcommittee said Friday the GOP hopes to use this antitrust package as a way to stomp out this bias through greater competition online.
Top Republicans in February went so far as to say their party is entertaining the idea of breaking up Big Tech companies in the hope of countering unfair censorship.
“Big tech has routinely suppressed conservative voices and violated consumers’ privacy,” said Republican Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas. “We must rein in their destructive behavior and preserve the constitutional rights of all Americans."
The legislative package is likely to be supported by anti-monopolists on both sides of the aisle, but Big Tech companies and their trade associations have pushed back by arguing government overreach could squash innovation and hurt consumers.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country's biggest business association, and the Chamber of Progress, a new center-left tech industry group, are both strongly opposed to the approach the antitrust bills take.
Many of the bills are targeted at Big Tech companies with a market capitalization of over $600 billion and at least 50 million monthly users or 100,000 business customers, such as tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
“Bills that target specific companies, instead of focusing on business practices, are simply bad policy and are fundamentally unfair and could be ruled unconstitutional," said Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Further, efforts made by these bills to use antitrust law to supplant the role of regulation are equally misguided.”
However, both groups support efforts to give government antitrust agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department more funding.
“Giving antitrust enforcers more funding and encouraging data portability are relatively uncontroversial ideas, but banning conveniences like Amazon Basics brand batteries, Apple’s Find my Phone tool, or Google Maps appearing in Google search results are ideas that would spark a consumer backlash,” said Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich, an advocacy group backed by Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
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Original Author: Nihal Krishan