Congress has finally begun to take action against Big Tech’s reign of terror, this time, with a focus on antitrust.
The House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law released its antitrust report late Tuesday, which discussed the rise to power of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon. The report recommended several solutions, chief among them is increasing competition and breaking up tech monopolies.
The report provided a summary of the lack of competition in online markets, beginning with Facebook. “In the absence of competition, Facebook’s quality has deteriorated over time, resulting in worse privacy protections for its users and a dramatic rise in misinformation on its platform,” the report stated.
Google, similarly, faced accusations of anticompetitive behavior. Subcommittee staff claimed that “Google maintained its monopoly over general search through a series of anticompetitive tactics. These included an aggressive campaign to undermine vertical search providers, which Google viewed as a significant threat.”
The report also stated that Amazon achieved its status “in part, through acquiring its competitors, including Diapers.com and Zappos.” The subcommittee staff said that “the company’s control over, and reach across, its many business lines enables it to self-preference and disadvantage competitors in ways that undermine free and fair competition.”
The report further argued that Apple “leverages its control of iOS and the App Store to create and enforce barriers to competition and discriminate against and exclude rivals while preferencing its own offerings.”
In order to correct this behavior, subcommittee staff, which prepared the report, recommended six different solutions:
First, it recommended “structural separation and line of business restrictions,” two tools that Congress has used to break up monopolies in the past, specifically “railroads and telecommunication services.”
The subcommittee further recommended “that Congress consider establishing nondiscrimination rules to ensure fair competition and to promote innovation online,” which would “require dominant platforms to offer equal terms for equal service and would apply to price as well as to terms of access.”
Antitrust laws are somewhat pointless if there is no way to increase competition in the broader market, so subcommittee staff recommended “that Congress consider data interoperability and portability to encourage competition by lowering entry barriers for competitors and switching costs by consumers.”
To reduce Big Tech’s market power, the subcommittee staff recommended “that Congress consider shifting presumptions for future acquisitions by the dominant platforms.” Such a change would presume that any acquisition by a dominant platform would be anticompetitive unless demonstrated “necessary for serving the public interest” and that benefits of the merger could not be achieved through internal growth.
The report then requested “that the Subcommittee consider legislation to provide news publishers and broadcasters with a narrowly tailored and temporary safe harbor to collectively negotiate with dominant online platforms.”
The final recommendation requested that “Congress consider prohibiting the abuse of superior bargaining power, including through potentially targeting anticompetitive contracts, and introducing due process protections for individuals and businesses dependent on the dominant platforms.”
While the report primarily warned of the harms of monopolies from a business and consumer protection standpoint, some, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), have other problems with Big Tech. At a hearing in September, Cruz asked a Google spokesperson, “If Google isn’t dominant, why does it have the power to demand of a media publisher it disagrees with that it take down the comments site and why does it expect immediate obedience?”
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