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US government fires shots on war on Big Tech

by on16 April 2021

Approved antitrust report

The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee formally approved a report accusing Big Tech companies of buying or crushing smaller firms.

Representative David Cicilline's office said in a statement the more than 400-page staff report will become an official committee report, and the blueprint for legislation to rein in the market power of the likes of Alphabet,  Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook.

The report was approved by a 24-17 vote that split along party lines which probably means the Republicans are looking for more Big Tech lobbying money. The companies have denied any wrongdoing.

The report first released in October - the first such congressional review of the tech industry - suggested extensive changes to antitrust law and described dozens of instances where it said the companies had misused their power.

Cicilline said in a statement that Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook each hold monopoly power over significant sectors of the US economy. This monopoly moment must end look forward to crafting legislation that addresses the important concerns.

The first bill has already been introduced. A bipartisan group of US lawmakers led by Cicilline and Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced legislation in March to make it easier for news organizations to negotiate collectively with platforms like Google and Facebook.

Klobuchar introduced a broader bill in February to strengthen antitrust enforcers' ability to stop mergers by lowering the bar for stopping deals and giving them more money for legal fights.

The Cicilline report, whose origins were bipartisan, contained a menu of potential changes in antitrust law.

Republicans have criticized Big Tech companies for allegedly censoring conservative speech, pointing to Facebook's and Twitter's freezing or banning former President Donald Trump's access to the platforms.

But most Republicans have not backed the report's proposed antitrust law changes but instead discussed stripping social media companies of legal protections they are accorded under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law gives companies immunity over content posted on their sites by users.

Suggested legislation in the report ranged from the aggressive, such as potentially barring companies like from operating the markets in which they compete, to the less controversial, like increasing the agencies' budgets that enforce antitrust law - the Justice Department's Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission.

The report also urged Congress to allow antitrust enforcers more leeway to stop companies from purchasing potential rivals, which is now difficult.

Last modified on 16 April 2021
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