WASHINGTON – House lawmakers on Friday introduced sweeping antitrust legislation to curb the power of big techs and prevent corporate consolidation in the economy, in what would be the most ambitious update to monopoly laws for decades.
The bills – five in total – are aimed directly at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and their hold on online commerce, information and entertainment. The proposals would make it easier to dismantle companies that use their dominance in one area to gain a stronghold in another, create new hurdles for acquisitions of nascent rivals, and give regulators more funding for police companies.
“Right now, unregulated technology monopolies have too much power over our economy. They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise consumer prices and put people out of work, ”said Rep. David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and chairman of the antitrust subcommittee. . “Our program will level the playing field and ensure that the richest and most powerful technology monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us.”
The introduction of the bills, which enjoy some bipartisan support, represent the most aggressive challenge to date, from Capitol Hill to the tech giants of Silicon Valley, which have thrived for years without regulation or great restriction on expanding their business. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have a combined market capitalization of $ 6.3 trillion, four times the value of the country’s 10 largest banks.
Over the past decade, dozens of children’s data privacy, responsible speech and online safety bills have failed. But efforts to curb the dominance of the biggest tech companies have gained broad support in recent years. The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission under the Trump administration have accused Google and Facebook of anti-competitive practices and have filed lawsuits that are expected to last for years. Democrats and Republicans point to the dominance of a handful of companies as the root cause of the spread of disinformation, inequality in work and wages, and random rules for Internet speech.
Tech giants face similar challenges to their power across the world, facing multiple antitrust investigations by Facebook, Amazon and Google in Europe and new legislation in Australia and India to limit the power of US giants .
“These are just the kind of new laws we need to really address the problem of the controlling power of dominant digital platforms,” said Charlotte Slaiman, director of competition for Public Knowledge, a public interest group . “Big tech companies have so many powerful tools to protect their monopolies. These bills would give antitrust authorities some more powerful tools to open up digital platform markets to competition. “
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.