Politics Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation

01:00  23 june  2021
01:00  23 june  2021 Source:   thehill.com

House Democrats are prepping 5 antitrust bills to take on Big Tech

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chance" antitrust legislation could make it to the floor in the next Congress. ongoing pleas from constituents for pandemic relief could delay the passage of antitrust laws, as it Even so, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have remained interested in antitrust reform Ken Buck, R-Colo., who has been one of the Democratic subcommittee members' key allies in their push for reform, released his

But industry groups backed by the tech firms have also pushed back on the legislation , arguing it would prevent the companies from operating popular consumer services and ultimately hurt small businesses and entrepreneurs. The six bills set to be considered at Wednesday's markup, where Others would give regulators a leg up in antitrust proceedings by shifting the burden of proof in merger cases onto dominant platforms, raising filing fees for mergers and giving state attorneys general more say in the venue of their antitrust cases. Another bill in the package would make it easier for

graphical user interface: Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation © Getty Images Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation

The House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is coming under pressure to hit the brakes on a legislative package targeting tech giants.

Industry groups, major tech companies and centrist Democrats have called for additional time and hearings to weigh the five proposals before the panel moves ahead with Wednesday's scheduled markup.

The bills focus on Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and build off the investigation the House subcommittee conducted last year that led to a blockbuster report alleging abuse of market power by the companies, who have all pushed back on the report's findings.

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  Lina Kahn will be chair of the Federal Trade Commission Democrats and Republicans came together to confirm the antitrust expert to the FTC.Even more significantly, news came later on Tuesday afternoon that Kahn will be the chair of the FTC. During an afternoon hearing focused on smart home speakers and competitiveness, Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced that Khan would be taking on the FTC’s leading role. A source familiar with the White House’s plans confirmed the news, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren celebrated Khan’s appointment in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

U.S. House lawmakers today announced sweeping bipartisan antitrust legislation that could result in major changes to the tech industry , impacting At the conclusion of that hearing, which took place in July 2020, the U.S. House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee leading the inquiry released a 450 page report with recommendations that have turned into the new antitrust bills that were proposed today. The five bills are aimed at Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, with Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline suggesting the legislation will "level the playing field."

The legislation , which Hawley called " Trust -Busting For the 21st Century Act," bans all mergers and acquisitions by companies with a market capitalization of over 0 billion, empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prohibit "digital dominant firms" from buying out potential competitors, and Klobuchar told CBS News in March she believes there is bipartisan interest in the Senate to push for stronger antitrust law enforcement and increased oversight of big tech companies. Hawley's proposal could face some backlash from fellow Republicans because he is pushing for changes to the

Now, the industry is arguing that the legislation on tap for Wednesday could lead to "unintended" consequences and end up hindering consumers and small businesses that rely on their services.

"The bills would require us to degrade our services and prevent us from offering important features used by hundreds of millions of Americans," Mark Isakowitz, Google's vice president of government affairs and public policy, said in a statement.

"We respectfully recommend that these consequences receive more thoughtful consideration before Congress takes action," Isakowitz added.

The proposals - all of which have some level of GOP support - are supported by advocacy groups and a coalition of small-business owners. The measures were introduced on June 11.

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The new legislation is set to significantly increase fines for breach of antitrust laws, forcing the corporate giants to think twice before committing antitrust violations, Ben Swann says. “Part of what’s been built into these tech companies, and their bottom line in doing business, is to say, ‘Well, we know we’re going to pay fines because we’re going to break the law’,” he said, commenting on the fact that corporations used to build that into the cost of doing business. “Senator Klobuchar’s bill would essentially increase the current maximum fine from 0 million to 15 percent of the gross annual

Privacy advocates said tech companies were pushing to undercut the California privacy law in other ways. Although passed in June, the law stipulates that lawmakers can pursue technical changes in its language until the end of this month. Any changes are supposed to be minor, but tech lobbyists and privacy groups continue to swarm the offices of the legislators behind the law, their aides said. Consumer privacy groups, which have been pushing lawmakers to leave the law virtually untouched, fear the companies are trying to soften protections.

Brian Huseman, Amazon's vice president of public policy, said the panel, led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), is moving "unnecessarily fast in pushing these bills forward."

"We encourage Chairman Cicilline and committee members to slow down, postpone the markup, and thoroughly vet the language in the bills for unintended negative consequences," Huseman said in a statement.

A Facebook spokesperson called the legislation a "poison pill for America's tech industry at a time our economy can least afford it" and argued it underestimates the "unrelenting competition within the tech sector," pointing to competition from foreign companies including the Chinese-owned TikTok.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Tech industry groups such as NetChoice and Chamber of Progress, which list Google, Facebook and Amazon among their members and partners, have issued similar warnings about the legislative package.

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Antitrust is also increasingly a priority in Congress. Now that Democrats will control the House and the Senate, they will be able to use their powerful perches to call in executives to testify about competition in the industry . Last year, House Democrats led a grilling of the chief executives of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google on these issues. Those recommendations could serve as a blueprint for legislation in the coming months. However, it remains to be seen how much of a priority antitrust policy will be in the new Congress, as lawmakers also grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, the

Draft legislation marks latest wing-clipping of digital platforms after halted Ant IPO. A warehouse worker preparing Alibaba orders in Jiangsu, China. China’s market regulator has taken its first major step towards curbing the monopolistic power of its tech giants, drawing up draft antitrust rules that have sent shares in companies such as Alibaba, Tencent and food delivery giant Meituan tumbling in Hong Kong. The move, which will see China attempt to define for the first time what constitutes anti -competitive behaviour in the tech sector, is the latest wing-clipping of high-flying digital platforms

"They put at risk free services that consumers use to message and call loved ones, get directions, connect with healthcare professions, consume online content‚ including news and educational content‚ and much more," TechNet President and CEO Linda Moore wrote to members of the committee.

Chamber of Progress, along with the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship, the Latino Coalition and the U.S. Black Chambers, penned a separate letter Tuesday to Cicilline and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) asking them to consider consequences that could "inadvertently put technology, information, or opportunity further out of reach for small businesses and other communities that have been left behind," according to a copy of the letter shared with The Hill.

Richard Luchette, a spokesperson for Cicilline, dismissed the arguments from the tech industry.

"I do not have a comment on the fact that tech platforms holding monopoly power are trying to delay long-overdue reforms that will require them to play by the same rules as everyone else," Luchette said.

Hillicon Valley: Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation | EU regulators investigating Google's digital ad business | YouTube wins EU court case over copyright violations

  Hillicon Valley: Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation | EU regulators investigating Google's digital ad business | YouTube wins EU court case over copyright violations Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter by clicking HERE. Welcome and Happy Tuesday! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage. Developments across the pond took the spotlight Tuesday, with the European Commission announcing it had opened an antitrust investigation into Google's ad business, and Europe's top court ruled that platforms are not liable for certain copyright violations.

Some advocates argue that the industry is quaking because the bills could upend their business models.

"Amazon executives are panicking because they know these bills will break the company's stranglehold on small businesses and consumers, and force it to compete on a level playing field," Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said in a statement.

But in addition to the tech industry, centrist Democrats are also saying the subcommittee should move slowly with its consideration of the legislation.

Members of the New Democrat Coalition wrote last week to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Nadler urging a delay of Wednesday's markup, saying full legislative hearings on these proposals are needed instead.

"We agree it is long overdue for Congress to enact laws that protect consumer's rights and personal information in our ever increasingly digital world. However, these are complex issues with far reaching implications," wrote Reps. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Scott Peters (Calif.), Sharice Davids (Kan.), Ann Kuster (N.H.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.) and Kathy Manning (N.C.).

"Legislation on topics as multifaceted and important as this one should be given the appropriate time and consideration," they added.

EU opens formal antitrust probe into Google's display ad services

  EU opens formal antitrust probe into Google's display ad services The European Commission is concerned Google has distorted competition by restricting the ability of third parties to access user data for advertising purposes on websites and apps, while reserving such data for its own use. "Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising purposes, it sells advertising space, and also acts as an online advertising intermediary. So Google is present at almost all levels of the supply chain for online display advertising," European Commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager said.

Spokespeople for Pelosi, Hoyer and the House Judiciary Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

The proposals would give regulators more power to rein in the tech giants - at a time when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be helmed by Big Tech critic Lina Khan - and could even lead to breaking up some of the companies.

President Biden has yet to nominate another key antitrust official - the head of the Justice Department's antitrust division - but by naming Khan, who worked on the House panel's antitrust investigation last year, to head the FTC just hours after she was confirmed by the Senate is a signal that Biden's likely to take a strong stance against the tech giants.

Wednesday's markup is likely to lead to a contentious debate, as prominent Republicans have also slammed the proposals.

While Nadler last week touted the bills as a "historic" step that will "pave the way for a stronger economy and a stronger democracy for the American people," Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the committee's ranking member, has been on a media blitz bashing the legislation.

Jordan on Tuesday co-authored an opinion piece published by Fox News arguing the bills would "empower the Biden administration to command and control Big Tech with an unchecked iron fist."

"These Democrat bills will only make things worse. If you think Big Tech is bad now, just wait until Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are working in collusion with Big Government," Jordan wrote with former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who later served as chief of staff in the Trump White House.

Despite that criticism, antitrust subcommittee ranking member Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said last week he expects more Republicans to support the proposals.

"We see this as a starting point and we are open to making these bills better, both here and on the Senate side together. If we don't start somewhere, we don't do something, the problem becomes much, much bigger," Buck told reporters.

Facebook antitrust victory poses big test for new FTC chief .
A federal judge's dismissal of the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust lawsuit against Facebook is posing the first big test for President Biden's new FTC Chair Lina Khan.But the renowned big tech critic faces a serious time crunch, with less than 30 days to try and shift the momentum through a revamped lawsuit.The stakes are high for the 32-year-old antitrust scholar who was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month in a 69-28 vote, gaining the support of both conservatives and progressives.Those same lawmakers, along with advocacy groups and small businesses, are hoping she can deliver a win while enforcing the antitrust laws she's been pushing to reform.

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