Members of the US House of Representatives have introduced five different bills aimed at taming the power of the world’s biggest tech companies, the biggest legislative threat to Big Tech in years.
If passed, the proposals would together constitute the biggest upheaval in U.S. monopoly law in a generation, limiting tech industry takeovers of the kind that cemented Facebook’s dominance on social media and limiting the ability of Apple, Amazon and Google to use their platforms to prioritize their own products.
“Right now, unregulated technology monopolies have too much power over our economy,” David Cicillin, Democratic chairman of the US House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee, said when announcing the plans. law Friday.
Big tech companies “are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise consumer prices and put people out of work,” he said.
U.S. politicians have vowed for years to pass historic technology regulations, such as a digital privacy bill, but have been hampered by the lack of a bipartisan agreement on the issue.
However, members of the House who have signed on to support the five bills include both Democrats and Republicans, a sign of the anger both sides feel at global tech companies.
Ken Buck, the senior Republican on the antitrust subcommittee, said, “Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google have prioritized power over innovation and hurt American businesses and consumers in the process.
The bills would enact many of the recommendations made in a 448-page report released by the Cicillin subcommittee last year, which accused the four companies of abusing their market power and followed hearings including one with the four general managers. This report was only signed by Democrats, suggesting that Republican members of Congress have since changed their position.
Details of the five invoices
The first of five bills would prevent companies from using their platforms to boost their own products. Amazon has notably been criticized for using its market-leading online store to showcase products made by the company. Last year’s report found that Amazon regularly uses data from third-party sellers to improve and sell its own products.
The second would prevent big tech companies from buying potential competitors. This bill reflects Capitol Hill’s anger that Facebook has been allowed to buy WhatsApp and Instagram, helping to strengthen its power on social media.
The third would prevent companies from using their platforms and products to stimulate other products they own. Google, for example, has been accused of manipulating its search engine to highlight its own products such as Google Shopping, when these services would not normally rank well in Google search.
The fourth bill would require companies to make it easier for customers to take their data and profiles online and move it to another service.
The fifth would make it more expensive to file some mergers, in an effort to give more money to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to pursue enforcement action.
If passed by the House of Representatives, the main obstacle to passing the bills would lie in the Senate, where Republicans have enough votes to obstruct the new legislation. Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, is generally seen as pro-big business, but has said relatively little about Big Tech.
Neil Bradley, director of policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement: “Bills that target specific companies, instead of focusing on business practices, are just bad policy and are fundamentally unfair and could be declared unconstitutional. “
Google declined to comment. Facebook, Apple and Amazon have not responded to such requests.
Additional reporting by Hannah Murphy, Richard Waters, Dave Lee and Patrick McGee