Graeme Jennings / AP
President Joe Biden has appointed Lina Khan as president of the Federal Trade Commission, giving the regulator top spot to one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent critics.
The surprise decision to elevate Khan to the FTC chairmanship was announced by Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., At the start of a hearing on Tuesday, shortly after the Senate confirmed Khan as commissioner during of a 69-28 vote.
Democrats will now have a majority on the five-member committee, which Khan will likely steer toward more aggressive scrutiny of allegations of monopoly abuse of power by tech companies.
Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Said Khan as head of the FTC is “tremendous news,” saying in a statement that “giant tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon deserve the scrutiny they receive. are facing and consolidation is stifling competition in US industries. ”
Khan, 32, experienced a rapid rise following a 2017 science article titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” that she wrote as a law student at Yale University. The newspaper went viral in some influential circles and gave rise to an approach known as “hipster antitrust”. She argued that the unparalleled dominance of tech titans like Amazon shows that U.S. antitrust laws are being broken and that regulations need to be rewritten to combat abuse of power.
Since the 1980s, courts have widely interpreted US antitrust law to mean that if prices are lower for consumers, then markets are working as intended. But Khan said that view is out of step with modern economics. She argued that tech companies have used predatory tactics to exclude competitors from the game, which she said should be considered illegal under fair competition laws.
Over the past few months, Khan has helped write a 449-page report for House Democrats that laid out the case for reducing the power of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. House lawmakers introduced five bills last week aimed at greatly regulating, and possibly even dismantling, some of the businesses.
Khan is the latest Big Tech critic President Biden called upon to take on the powerful industry. Tim Wu, who also supports increased government oversight of the tech industry, sits on the White House’s National Economic Council, where he is a special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy.
Biden, however, has come under fire for not moving quickly enough to fill other key antitrust enforcement roles in his administration. Nearly halfway through his freshman year, Biden has yet to announce his choice to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division and fill an empty seat on the Federal Communications Commission.
Still, Khan’s confirmation on Tuesday was welcomed by those pushing for greater enforcement of competition laws, like the Washington-based American Economic Liberties Project.
Sarah Miller, executive director of the group, said Khan’s ability to garner bipartisan support shows “the keen appetite of policymakers to curb Big Tech.”
Miller added, “Her presence on the FTC marks the beginning of the end of an era of lawlessness for powerful corporations that they have benefited from at the expense of workers, small businesses and democracy.”