House Democrats say Big Tech must be reined in
Democratic lawmakers are calling for the U.S. to rein in the power of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, as well as overhauling U.S. antitrust law, in a sweeping report on the the dominance of Big Tech.
The 450-page report, released Tuesday by the House Antitrust Subcommittee, details a range of anticompetitive practices, charging the four companies with acting as gatekeepers, stifling competition, charging “exorbitant” fees and eroding democracy.
“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.
The panel calls for sharply curtailing tech companies’ power, including force them to spin off their platforms from their other lines of business. This can be done by either splitting up tech companies or by limiting them to a single industry, according to the report.
Under current law, companies active across multiple industries can use their dominance in one area to undercut competition elsewhere. For instance, the committee found that Google’s ownership of the Android smartphone operating system gives it “near-perfect market intelligence” on companies who develop apps for Android, which allows the internet giant to easily create competing apps.
Amazon also uses information on third-party sellers on its popular marketplace to develop competing products, the report found.
“Each platform now serves as a gatekeeper over a key channel of distribution,” the report said. “By controlling access to markets, these giants can pick winners and losers throughout our economy.”
The lawmakers also call for the platforms to be required to offer equal terms for equal products and services for all users. That would prevent companies from favoring their own products on platforms they run, as Amazon has been accused of doing in its marketplace, and Google has been accused of doing in search.
The report proposes changing antitrust laws to impose a higher bar on the approval of tech industry mergers and acquisitions. Finally, it proposes doing away with so-called mandatory arbitration clauses in tech companies’ terms of service. These clauses have proliferated in recent years and prevent users from going to court or joining class-action lawsuits if they have a dispute, instead requiring them to resolve disputes individually in private arbitration proceedings.
Although the 15-month investigation was bipartisan, Republican members of the antitrust committee dissented from most of the panel’s recommendations. Republican members issued a competing report that disagreed with the suggestions to break up large technology companies.
The GOP report alleged that Google and Facebook censored conservative content and decried the Democrats for declining to look into Twitter, which has also been accused of having an anticonservative bias.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.