The going seems only to be getting tougher for US tech giants, as they are now facing a tough time in their own country even as antitrust probes into them have been opened abroad. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approached ambitious legislation to curb the market power of tech giants Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, Apple, and Amazon, forcing them to sever their dominant platforms from their other lines of business.
One common allegation most of the mentioned powerhouses have faced is that they abuse their dominant position in the market to stifle competition and make it hard for their rivals to maintain their businesses. Lawmakers have often talked about the need for antitrust legislation, and now the Committee has started work on a package of six bills.
Conservative Republican lawmakers put forward their concerns of perceived anti-conservative bias in online platforms but failed to stop the momentum behind the package.
The most significant of the bills was the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching or Access Act, which requires that the largest internet platforms make it easier for users to transport their data to other platforms and even communicate with users on other platforms. Getting the green light with a result of 25-19 would bestow the Federal Trade Commission with extensive new powers to set individualized standards for these companies.
Another bill empowers the states in determining the courts where these antitrust cases will be prosecuted. Approved by 34-7, it comes after many states joined forces with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the US Justice Department in lawsuits against Facebook and Google.
The American Choice and Innovation Online Act, another bill that aims to stop the behemoths from favoring their products over others on their platforms, will restrict them from engaging in conduct that favors their businesses, products, or services, while putting others at a disadvantage, or discriminating among similarly situated business users.
Passing by 29-12, yet another bill increases the budget of the FTC by increasing the filing fees for proposed tech mergers worth more than $500 million and reduced the fees for those under $500 million.
The other bills make it necessary for platforms to not merge with companies, who competed with it, that is, were rivals of the platforms, and restricted behemoths from creating a platform for other businesses and then acting as a competitor against them.
It should be noted that these bills are yet to pass the full House, even as Republicans and Democrats raised concerns and proposed amendments. Many Republican lawmakers said that they did not support a total revamp of the existing antitrust laws.
U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee called the bills a “historic package of bipartisan legislation” aimed at “reining in anti-competitive abuses of the most dominant firms online.”
Understandably, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and some of the other tech giants to suffer under the new laws opposed the bills. Apple argued that some provisions of the bills “would create a race to the bottom for security and privacy.”
Department of Information Technologies: https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-information-technologies/