Bipartisan legislation marks Congress ’most important push to date to curb Silicon Valley, in some cases targeting directly the underlying business models of the tech giants.
The most aggressive of the five the bills, which address concerns about tech giants using their control over various lines of business to favor their own products or suppress rivals, open the doors to corporate breakdowns if they don’t meet them.
“For example, a search engine might not own a video service that has incentives to favor in search results,” according to press material provided by the proposed legislation. “In these cases, the bill requires dominant platforms to undo business lines where the power of the platform allows it to favor its own services or disadvantage its rivals.”
Invoices do not designate specific companies. But virtually all legislative proposals seek to respond to the findings of a 16-month investigation into the technology industry by the House Judiciary Antitrust Group. This investigation concluded, in a relevant report, that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google enjoy the power of the monopoly and have abused their position in various ways at the expense of fair competition.
“Right now, unregulated technology monopolies have too much power over our economy,” representative David Cicilline, chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement. “They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise consumer prices and stop people from working. Our agenda will standardize the playing field and ensure that the richest and most powerful technology monopolies meet the requirements. same rules as the rest of us “.
Google declined to comment on the legislation. Facebook, Apple and Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Large technology companies have previously denied engaging in anti-competitive conduct. They argue that they compete fairly and offer products and services that have greatly benefited consumers.
The proposed legislation drew praise from critics of big technologies and smaller rivals. Roku, the transmission device maker that competes with several of the largest technology companies, said Friday that an “aggressive set of reforms is needed to prevent a future in which these monopolists further abuse consumer choice and hinder access to innovative and independent products “.
Proponents of the tech industry say the bills would lead to dramatic changes for consumers. Bills could outlaw practices such as the ability to watch YouTube videos in Google search results or free shipping to Amazon Prime for selected products, Adam Kovacevich, founder and CEO of the Progress Chamber, a group of defense defended by Amazon, Facebook, Google and others, wrote before the introduction of the bills.
Each of the bills is being led by several committee Democrats and at least one Republican, according to congressional aides. Bipartisan cooperation highlights how techlash has become one of the few issues that can unite the two sides of the aisle, though the two sides sometimes disagree on the diagnosis of Silicon Valley’s most pressing problems.
“There aren’t too many Republicans and Democrats agreeing these days, but we agree that we need to address this crisis,” one of the aides said.
The package does not include any provision addressing Republican claims of anti-conservative bias of online platforms, the aides said, in part because the moderation of online content is not within the committee’s jurisdiction and because the committee’s top Republican, Representative Ken Buck, believes the allegations of ideological bias stem from a broader monopoly issue in technology.
“These companies have maintained the power of the monopoly in the online marketplace by using various anti-competitive behaviors to stifle competition,” Buck said in a statement. “This legislation breaks the power of the Big Tech monopoly to control what Americans see and say online and fosters an online marketplace that fosters innovation and provides small U.S. businesses with a fair playing field.”
The legislation seeks to impose restrictions only on the country’s largest platforms. For example, a proposal to ban so-called “killer acquisitions” would apply to platform companies with a market cap in excess of $ 600 billion and at least 50 million monthly users or 100,000 business customers.
Although the laws prohibit certain practices, they cede responsibility for enforcement (and more resources) to antitrust officials in the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.
“The United States has been on the sidelines” when it comes to enforcing antitrust law, said one of the aides. “We have been asleep in changing these many, many transactions. There is a growing consensus around the world that the status quo does not work.”
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