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Lawmakers slam Big Tech ‘monopolies’ in new report

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Oct 07, 2020 - 03:59 AM

WASHINGTON — A House of Representatives panel said in a report Tuesday that four Big Tech firms are “monopolies” which abuse their market dominance and called for sweeping changes to antitrust laws and enforcement, which could potentially lead to breakups of the giant firms.

But the report by the staff of the House Judiciary Committee failed to win the endorsement of Republican members, highlighting a partisan divide despite widespread criticism of the tech giants.

The 449-page document concluded that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google “engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.”

“To put it 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 report comes after an investigation of more than 15 months and hearings this year with the top executives of the four firms, in parallel to antitrust probes being led by federal and state enforcers.

Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler and antitrust subcommittee chairman David Cicilline said in a joint statement that the tech firms “each possess significant market power over large swaths of our economy” and that all have “exploited their power of the marketplace in anticompetitive ways.”

The report suggests moves which could lead to breakups without offering details on doing so.

It calls for “structural separations” to prohibit companies from competing on platforms they operate.

Also recommended was a requirement that platforms allow “interoperability” with competitors and the establishment of a standard to halt acquisitions that hurt competition.

The findings echo a growing backlash against the firms which have seen their fortunes rise in recent years as they extend market dominance, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

But while Democrats have assailed the growing market power of tech platforms, Republicans have decried what they consider bias by the Silicon Valley firms against conservatives.

Republican panel members declined to endorse the report, highlighting the partisan divide on tech regulation.

“Big Tech is out to get conservatives,” Representative Jim Jordan said as the report was issued.

“Unfortunately the Democrats’ partisan report ignores this fundamental problem and instead advances radical proposals that would refashion antitrust law in the vision of the far left.”

Matt Schruers of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a trade group including some of the large tech firms, said the lawmakers failed to understand the digital economy.

“If the goal is simply to knock down successful US businesses, then perhaps this plan would score a hit,” he said.

“But if the goal is to benefit consumers, which has until now been the standard for antitrust policy, it is hard to see how this would do anything but invite regulators to micromanage business models.”

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