The Biden administration tripled its commitment to taming powerful tech companies on Tuesday, offering hired Big Tech critic Jonathan Kanter to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
Kanter is a lawyer with extensive experience representing small businesses like Yelp in antitrust cases against Google. He currently practices law in his own firm, specializing in the defense of antitrust enforcement at the state and federal government levels.
“Throughout his career, Kanter has also been a leading lawyer and expert in efforts to promote strong and meaningful antitrust and competition policy,” the White House press release said. Progressives celebrated the nomination as a victory, although some of Biden’s new antitrust hawks enjoyed support from both political parties.
The Justice Department already has a major antitrust lawsuit against Google underway. The lawsuit, filed by Trump’s own Justice Department, accuses the company of “illegally maintaining monopolies” through anti-competitive practices in its search and search advertising activities. If successfully confirmed, Kanter would be able to lead the DOJ’s big case against Google.
In a 2016 NYT editorial, Kanter argued that Google has been known to rely on an anti-competitive “playbook” to maintain its dominance in the market. Kanter pointed to Google’s long history of launching free, ad-supported products and restricting competition through “discriminatory and exclusionary practices” in any given corner of the market.
Kanter is just the latest high-level Big Tech critic who has been elevated to a major regulatory role under Biden. Last month, Biden named fierce Amazon critic Lina Khan as FTC president upon her confirmation to the agency. In March, Biden appointed another top Big Tech critic, Columbia law professor Tim Wu, to the National Economic Council as special assistant for technology and competition policy.
All signs point to Biden’s White House gearing up for a major federal fight with Big Tech. Congress is working on a set of Big Tech bills, but instead of – or in tandem with – law reform, the White House can flex its own regulatory muscle through the FTC and DOJ.
In new comments to MSNBC, the White House confirmed that it is also “reviewing” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a powerful piece of legislation that protects platforms from liability for user-generated content.