Nearly always at odds, lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, are finally on the same side of an issue: big tech needs to be reined in.
What they can’t agree on is how restrictive new measures should be to limit their power and reach.
The Democrat-majority Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law has been looking into Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google – some of the largest companies in the world – since June 2019 and will soon be publishing its final report of legislative recommendations.
“Put simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons,” the report said.
“Each platform now serves as a gatekeeper over a key channel of distribution,” the report stated. “By controlling access to markets, these giants can pick winners and losers throughout our economy.”
The Republicans’ Concerns
A memo written by Republican Rep. Ken Buck was leaked to Politico and Bloomberg and reveals some concerns from Republicans on the sub committee’s recommendations.
Buck wrote that some of the recommendations are too sweeping and “non-starters for conservatives,” for example. Some of these include a proposal to break up companies.
“We agree that antitrust enforcement agencies need additional resources and tools to provide proper oversight. However, these potential changes need not be dramatic to be effective,” said Buck.
His memo also indicates that some of the measures put forth by the Democrats include:
- A ban on certain kinds of mergers including the acquisition of smaller rival start-ups by big tech companies.
- The elimination of arbitration clauses exposing companies to higher risk of class-action lawsuits.
- No longer allowing companies to sell products on marketplaces that they also own and operate. For example Amazon could not sell its in-house products on Amazon marketplace.
A Common Ground
The memo shows that there is some common ground between the warring parties to provide additional resources to agencies overseeing the tech companies.
Buck said that he agrees with his Democrat colleagues that legislation needs to “shift the burden of proof for companies pursuing mergers and acquisitions and empowering consumers to take control of their user data through data portability and interoperability standards.”
Buck’s memo also raises concerns that the censoring of conservative voices on these platforms has not been adequately addressed by Democrats.
In a statement to Politico, Buck said “I agree … that Big Tech has acted in an anticompetitive manner. The next phase is to start working on solutions. With a problem this significant, one shouldn’t be surprised that there is a variety of legislative solutions being offered.”
The proposed legislation would also be as significant as the Glass-Steagall act, which separated investment banking from retail banking, according to subcommittee chair Rep. David Cicilline.