WASHINGTON – House lawmakers on Friday introduced comprehensive antitrust rules aimed at limiting Big Tech’s power and averting corporate consolidation across the economy in what would be the most ambitious update of antitrust laws in decades.
The bills – a total of five – are aimed directly at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and their grips on online shopping, information and entertainment. The proposals would make it easier to divide companies that use their dominance in one area to gain a stronghold in another, would create new barriers to the acquisition of budding rivals and give the authorities powers with more funds to police companies.
The introduction of the bills, which have some support from both parties, represents the most aggressive challenge yet from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley’s tech giants, who have thrived for years without regulation or much reluctance to expand their business. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have a total market value of $ 6.3 trillion, four times more than the value of the country’s 10 largest banks.
Over the past decade, dozens of bills for data protection, voice responsibility and children’s online safety have failed. However, efforts to curb the dominance of the largest technology companies have received widespread support in recent years. The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission under the Trump administration accused Google and Facebook of anti-competitive practices and filed lawsuits that are expected to be fought for years. Democrats and Republicans point to the dominance of a handful of companies as a fundamental cause of the spread of disinformation, inequality in labor and wages, and random rules of speech over the Internet.
The tech giants face similar challenges as their power across the globe and face more monopoly investigations of Facebook, Amazon and Google in Europe and new legislation in Australia and India to curb the power of the American giants.
“This is exactly the type of new law that we need to really address the issue of gatekeeper power from dominant digital platforms,” said Charlotte Slaiman, competition director for Public Knowledge, a public interest group. “Large technology companies have so many powerful tools to protect their monopolies. These bills would give antitrust enforcers a few more powerful tools to open up digital platform markets to competition. ”
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