Scathing congressional report suggests big trouble for Big Tech if Biden wins

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A scathing report detailing abuses of market power by four top technology companies suggests a tough road ahead of new rules and stricter enforcement for Big Tech should Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden win the White House.

FILE PHOTO: The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in a combination photo from Reuters files.

Antitrust experts and congressional aides said the 449-page report from the antitrust panel of the House Judiciary Committee, released on Tuesday, lays out a road map for the Democratic Party to put the brakes on the dominance of Alphabet Inc’s GOOGL.O Google, Apple Inc AAPL.O, Inc AMZN.O and Facebook Inc FB.O.

With the Nov. 3 election approaching fast and a new Congress scheduled to be sworn in in January, action on the report’s recommendations this year is unlikely and no new legislative changes are imminent. However, the findings boost the chances for new laws in the future and will inform existing investigations against large technology companies by state attorneys general and agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission.

The report reflects the views of Democrats on the antitrust subcommittee in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Republicans on the panel released two separate reports on the investigation.

“This basically lays out the Democratic Party’s position on tech platforms and how antitrust laws need to be refined and strengthened,” said Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, a Washington-based group focused on monopoly power.

“The report has done a lot of work to set up where and why a Biden administration should act and how it should prioritize the recommendations in the report,” she said. Miller is one of hundreds of members of the Biden campaign’s tech policy committee.

William Kovacic, a former chair of the Federal Trade Commission, warned that the companies will “pull out all the stops” in lobbying against the changes.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported how large tech companies including Amazon were cozying up to the Biden campaign with cash and connections.

Biden has previously said antitrust enforcement has not been strong and that tech firms deserve a hard look from the federal agencies that oversee competition. He has stayed away from calling for the breakup of large technology companies, saying it would be premature to do so without a formal investigation.

The House report on Tuesday broadly recommended that companies should not both control and compete in related businesses, but stopped short of naming a specific company. Anti-monopoly experts and congressional aides said the report, which details Big Tech’s abuses, has the potential to influence the thinking of Biden on the issue.

A spokesman for the Biden campaign did not immediately comment.

The antitrust panel will take up the majority report after the October recess for formal adoption and will have a vote on it, counsels for the committee said. The next step will be coming up with legislation to put the report’s recommendations into action.

When asked about whether U.S. Representative David Cicilline, the chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, was considering legislation, a spokesman said the Rhode Island Democrat has said he wants all stakeholders to weigh in and that it was safe to say all options are being considered.

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