In a 29-hour marathon session, the U.S House of Representative Judiciary Committee voted on June 23 in support of a six-bill package intended to combat the dominance of Big Tech companies. To no surprise, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are playing full-court press defense to stop these bills from becoming law.
If passed, the new laws would begin the process of untangling the monopolies these companies have become, and regulators would be better equipped to protect smaller start-ups and keep tech giants such as these from using their power in one industry to gain control over another.
Despite the bipartisan support, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is not a fan. McCarthy criticized the package and its sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), for giving more power to the government. Cicilline “wanted to remove President Trump from Twitter even earlier, empower an individual, the FTC, to control what is said.”
McCarthy takes issue with the silencing of conservative voices on social media, a problem not addressed in the proposed antitrust legislation. Republican Representatives Ken Buck of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Lance Gooden of Texas all support the new bills. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), on the other hand, is siding with Rep. McCarthy, also taking issue with impeachment managers proposing each of the bills and refusing to include censorship issues. Buck snapped back against Republican opposition, tweeting, “Using antitrust laws to stop Big Tech’s bad behavior isn’t Big Government, it’s law enforcement.”
Pay the Bills Away
When the legislation was first introduced, Tim Cook, Apple’s Chief Executive called Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Congressional leaders to deliver a stern warning. According to five sources with knowledge of the conversations, Cook criticized the bills for curbing innovation and harming consumers.
Tim Cook is not the only furious tech company leader throwing threats and money at their potential problems. Lobbyists, executives, and dozens of advocacy groups and think tanks paid by tech companies have flooded Capitol Hill offices with phone calls, personal visits, letters, and emails arguing that if these bills become law, there will be disastrous consequences for the industry. So far, their efforts have not put an end to the legislation.
Well-known Amazon lobbyist Brian Huseman released a statement on Tuesday warning the six bills “would have significant negative effects on the hundreds of thousands of American small- and medium-sized businesses that sell in our store and tens of millions of consumers who buy products from Amazon.” Facebook spokesman Christopher Sgro said antitrust laws “should promote competition and protect consumers, not punish successful American companies.”
Gigi Sohn, a prominent fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy, said he has never seen these companies fight so hard against Congressional legislation. He believes they are doing so because the bills go after the essence and structure of “their business models.”
Not all scholars have faith in the efficiency and effectiveness of these bills. Arun Sundararajan, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, is hoping that the law and its application are economically sound and not shaped by political ideology. Lina Khan, famously known for her 2017 paper “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” has been named chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, the agency in charge of implementing policies and performing the crackdown. Professor Sundararajan is optimistic in the bipartisan support to “do something” but suspects the process of hashing out the details will fall apart.
The subtle sparring between and amongst Democrats and Republicans may mount into bigger problems, keeping this legislation from being effective. The conversation of “tackling Big Tech” has gone on for the last years as simply that, conversation and talking points. No real action or legislation has been taken on a federal level since these tech companies turned monopolies.
Read more from Keelin Ferris.