Lawmakers Take Aim At Silicon Valley With 5 Antitrust Bills

House lawmakers Friday introduced a bipartisan package of antitrust bills targeting the largest technology companies.

The proposed legislation addresses an array of issues that were flagged last year in a 450-page report by Democrats on the House Judiciary's antitrust subcommittee. That report alleged that Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook maintained their market dominance by copying or purchasing competitive rivals, and engaged in “self-preferencing, predatory pricing, or exclusionary conduct.”

Among other accusations, the report authors said Facebook “used its data advantage to create superior market intelligence to identify nascent competitive threats and then acquire, copy, or kill these firms.”

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Google allegedly “used its search monopoly to misappropriate content from third parties and to boost Google’s own inferior vertical offerings, while imposing search penalties to demote third-party vertical providers,” according to the report.

The report's recommendations included forced break-ups, as well as new legislation that would make it more difficult for large companies to acquire other businesses.

One of the bills introduced Friday, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, aims to prevent a large online platform from purchasing an actual or potential competitor. 

A separate proposal, the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, would prohibit platforms from owning businesses that offer competing services. That measure could result in a forced break up of some companies, including Amazon.

A third proposed bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, would prevent the largest tech companies from discriminating in favor of their own products or services.

That measure could prohibit companies like Amazon from giving its own products preferential treatment, and could also prevent Google from prioritizing its own services in the search results.

Another bill -- the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act -- aims to enable consumers to easily transfer their data -- such as photos or contact lists -- between platforms.

The fifth proposal, the “Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act,” would increase the filing fees for mergers, and appropriate more money to federal antitrust officials.

Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) stated Friday that the proposals “ will level the playing field and ensure the wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us.”

Some advocacy groups voiced support for the measures Friday.

Sally Hubbard, director of enforcement strategy at the Open Markets Institute, said the bills represent “a major step toward reining in Big Tech’s monopolistic practices and safeguarding our democracy and liberty.”

Public Citizen also praised the proposals.

“Monopoly power lowers wages, reduces innovation and entrepreneurship, undermines the free press, and perpetuates toxic systems of racial and class dominance,” Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, stated. “These reforms would check Big Tech’s overwhelming power by breaking up the tech giants, prevent them from gobbling up competitors, and require them to play fairly with competitors. 

But the tech industry is warning that the bills could harm consumers.

“Giving antitrust enforcers more funding and encouraging data portability are relatively uncontroversial ideas, but banning conveniences like Amazon Basics brand batteries, Apple’s Find my Phone tool, or Google Maps appearing in Google search results are ideas that would spark a consumer backlash,” Adam Kovacevich, CEO of the industry-funded Chamber of Progress, stated Friday.

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