US House antitrust panel plans new rules to curb big tech: Report

Strategy aims to produce several small bills to thwart technology firms fighting one large piece of legislation: Source.

Last year, Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, released a 16-month investigation of tech companies [File: Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner/Bloomberg]

United States Democratic Representative David Cicilline, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, is preparing to unveil 10 or more pieces of legislation aimed at reining in Big Tech companies, the Reuters news agency reported citing a source with knowledge of the matter.

The subcommittee under Cicilline’s leadership released a 449-page report in October last year, which detailed abuses of market power by Apple, Amazon, Alphabet’s Google and Facebook.

The strategy to produce a series of smaller bills is aimed at lowering opposition from technology companies and their lobbyists towards a single piece of legislation, the source said on Sunday.

Cicilline is also working on a separate bill working on a key law called Section 230, which offers protection to tech platforms from liability over content that users post, the source said.

His 230 legislation is likely to go after platforms such as Facebook and the way they amplify user content.

Cicilline’s comments were first reported in an interview by Axios Media on Sunday. His office declined to comment.

‘Laws are coming’

Cicilline’s work on antitrust legislation is part of an emerging effort on Capitol Hill to give antitrust enforcers more power to block mergers and stop anticompetitive conduct.

Last month, the House antitrust panel heard from antitrust experts about potential proposals aimed at fostering competition in digital markets, ranging from company breakups to new regulations to prevent tech giants from flexing their muscle.

“Republicans and Democrats agree that these companies have too much power, and that Congress must curb this dominance,” Cicilline said at the time. “Mark my words, change is coming, laws are coming. Every day, policymakers around the world are undertaking a similar process.”

The hearing follows the findings of the panel’s 16-month investigation of tech companies released last year. The report determined that Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook Inc, Inc, and Apple Inc have all abused their pole position in the digital economy.

The committee’s report recommended a series of far-reaching antitrust reforms, including a measure that would prohibit a dominant tech platform from operating in competition with the firms dependent on it — much the way banking laws once barred large lenders from acquiring insurers, real estate firms, and other non-banking companies. The committee also recommended restrictions on acquisitions by leading firms.

Democrats are looking to capitalise on their control of Congress to pass antitrust reforms in response to evidence that industries across the US economy have grown more concentrated, with many markets suffering from signs of declining competition. Competition policy is increasingly seen as a mechanism to combat economic woes such as income inequality and stagnant wages.

Source: News Agencies