On Friday, a number of House members introduced legislation looking to break up Big Tech giants Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
According to a press release from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the bills aim to “expand opportunities for consumers, workers, and small business owners by holding unregulated Big Tech monopolies accountable for anti-competitive conduct.”
As Ben Zeisloft for The Daily Wire noted, “The legislation has support from both sides of the aisle.”
But what would this legislation actually achieve?
In short, this legislation would be the most impactful change to antitrust law in decades, following “a nearly year-and-a-half-long investigation by the House of Representatives’ antitrust subcommittee, which focused on competition in the digital marketplace.”
This move by House members involves five distinct bills:
This bill would look to prevent so-called “discriminatory conduct” by Big Tech corporations, achieved by stopping them from giving preferential treatment to their products and services over various rivals. For example, Google could not promote Google products and services in their search results. It would also prevent other forms of discrimination, including “cutting off a competitor from services” or collecting data from rival companies in order to release competing products.
This bill would look to prevent Big Tech corporations from buying companies which present or enable competition. As CNET explained, “If passed, the bill would shift the burden of proof in merger cases to the big tech companies, making it their responsibility to prove acquisitions are lawful rather than the government’s responsibility to prove a merger would be harmful,” standing as a reversal of the general “innocent until proven guilty” mentality of law enforcement.
This bill would look to prevent Big Tech corporations from leveraging their power and influence across multiple business channels in pursuit of profitable advantages, with certain companies of a significant size prohibited from engaging in another line of business which could present a conflict of interest, such as making decisions which favor the wider business or inhibit the success of a competitor. An example of such an allegation would be Amazon selling its own branded products on Amazon.com.
Also known as the Access Act, this bill would look to enable the transfer of personal information from one platform to another, with the goal of promoting competition by reducing the costs of switching platforms for both consumers and businesses.
This bill would look to raise filing fees for mergers, which would be used to provide funding for further antitrust actions via both the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice.
Who has spoken out in favor?
This effort is being led by Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-CO).
“The American people sent us to Washington to get things done. Nothing is more important than ensuring every American has an opportunity to get ahead,” said Chairman Cicilline. “Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy. 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.”
“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. Buck. “Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have prioritized power over innovation and harmed American businesses and consumers in the process. These companies have maintained monopoly power in the online marketplace by using a variety of anticompetitive behaviors to stifle competition. 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.”
Who has spoken out in opposition?
Adam Kovacevich — the CEO of the Chamber of Progress, a group sponsored by multiple Big Tech companies including Amazon, Facebook and Google — argued that “Democrats should focus on making people’s lives better, not messing with stuff people already like” in a blog post in early June.
“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,” wrote Kovacevich. “Instead of focusing on helping families, these proposals inexplicably target a bunch of technological conveniences that most people really like. Let’s hope Democrats stay focused on the right things.”
The bills must first be approved by the House Judiciary Committee, after which they can then move to a vote in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and then the White House for final approval.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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