The go-to metric for antitrust enforcers has long been increasing prices. Critics, however, have begun to question whether that approach needs an update, given that tech giants like Google and Facebook offer free services. And this week, some of the nation’s leading antitrust enforcers made clear they’re willing to take a broader view. Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said his office will consider factors like privacy violations or free speech restrictions as signs that product quality and market competition have deteriorated.
A small liberal think tank has spent years urging Washington to crack down on the United States’ biggest tech companies — a lonely crusade that barely registered with the political establishment. Now the Open Markets Institute has become one of the most influential drivers of Democratic politics in the fight to rein in Facebook, Amazon and Google, seeing its ideas embraced by Elizabeth Warren and forcing presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Joe Biden to take a side.
Two House lawmakers looking to craft a consensus data privacy bill found themselves on opposite sides of an emerging debate: whether legislation should create a new privacy division at the Federal Trade Commission. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who heads the House Commerce Committee's Consumer Protection Subcommittee, said she’ll pursue that option.
Federal Communications Commissioner Mike O’Rielly’s current term expires in June 2019. Although he can remain seated until the end of 2020, he would need President Donald Trump’s renomination and a Senate confirmation vote to serve beyond then. Commissioner O’Rielly has said he wants another five-year term if possible. “I think he’s outstanding,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is both of the tech world and one of its harshest critics. Viewed from a great distance, Yang’s candidacy has a lot in common with the two political comets that streaked across the 2016 presidential campaign: Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left. Yang runs essentially the same playbook: embracing economic grievance, hammering the tech giants and other darlings of the ‘new economy,’ selling his case directly to the working American.
Some lawmakers say the federal government should help small US wireless providers rip out and replace their existing Chinese network equipment. The Rural Wireless Association puts the collective price tag at $1 billion. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said he would raise the issue with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and push for a solution in the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We need to provide support to those small and rural communities who have already installed some of this equipment and will need help in covering the costs of removing and replacing it,” he said.
House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) raised concern at the Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing about the agency’s response to “major consumer problems,” suggesting the commission had been deferring to corporate interests when it comes to fixing things like “robocalls or widespread communications failures after disasters like Hurricanes Maria and Michael.” The criticism came days after the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau issued a report detailing “the unac
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), whose House Commerce Subcommittee is leading efforts to craft privacy legislation, raised the prospect of tackling concerns over competition and data protection at the same time. Asked about next steps on privacy legislation, Chairwoman Schakowsky said the question is where to limit the “scope” of a bill. “You can really get into a whole lot of things,” she said. “There’s talk about breaking up the big tech companies. Is that a part of this? Is that a separate [issue]?
Public-interest groups and civil liberties advocates say there's no clear evidence Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other companies suppress conservative viewpoints. And they say they're troubled by the prospect of government officials, particularly President Donald Trump, seeking to intimidate Silicon Valley over the issue. "A more pressing problem than alleged 'censorship' of any particular viewpoint is the proliferation of misinformation, propaganda, hate speech, terrorist content, and harassment online," said John Bergmayer, a senior counsel at Public Knowledge.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is hoping to get key committees on the same page when it comes to the tech industry and data privacy. He’s drafting a letter to leaders on Senate Banking and Senate Commerce committees to sort out jurisdictional questions related to the sector. “I’m going to have Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein and myself, we’re going to write a letter to the other committees of jurisdiction and see if we can come up with sort of a common approach to the issues,” he said. Sen Graham said the letter will likely be sent next week.