Anger toward big technology companies has led to multiple antitrust investigations, calls for a new federal data privacy law and criticism of the companies’ political ad policies. Perhaps no issue about the tech companies, though, has united lawmakers in the Capitol like the decimation of local news. Lawmakers from both parties blame companies like Facebook and Google, which dominate the online ad industry. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave a big boost to a bill that may provide some papers a lifeboat.
As the $26 billion blockbuster merger between T-Mobile and Sprint teetered this summer, Makan Delrahim, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, labored to rescue it behind the scenes, according to text messages revealed in a lawsuit to block the deal. Delrahim connected company executives with the Federal Communications Commission and members of Congress.
Apparently, a number of the US’ biggest chip makers have sold millions of dollars of products to Huawei despite a Trump administration ban on the sale of American technology to the Chinese telecommunications company. Since the Commerce Department enacted the ban in May, American companies including Intel and Micron have found ways to sell technology to Huawei. The components began to flow to Huawei about three weeks ago. Goods produced by American companies overseas are not always considered American-made, and the suppliers are taking advantage of this.
Apparently, the Justice Department is moving closer to approving T-Mobile’s $26 billion merger with Sprint, but only if the companies sell multiple assets to create a new wireless competitor. The department is pushing T-Mobile and Sprint to sell a prepaid mobile service and valuable radio frequencies that carry data to wireless devices. The companies have approached three internet and television providers — Dish Network, Charter and Altice — about buying Boost Mobile, a prepaid service owned by Sprint, and airwaves owned by Sprint.
Google and Amazon have thrived as American regulators largely kept their distance. That may be changing. Politicians on the right and left are decrying the tech companies’ enormous power. President Donald Trump (R-NY) and other Republicans have taken swipes at Amazon over taxes and at Google over search results they say are biased.
Plans to upgrade wireless service in some rural areas is being halted abruptly since President Donald Trump issued an executive order that banned the purchase of equipment from companies posing a national security threat. That includes gear from Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, a major supplier of equipment to rural wireless companies.
Facebook’s announcement in late April that it had set aside $3 billion to $5 billion to settle claims that it mishandled users’ personal data suggested a strong consensus by federal regulators that the social media giant needed to be held accountable. But the reality behind the scenes at the Federal Trade Commission is far more complicated, reflecting the politics and give-and-take of the negotiations.
When Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook called for regulating harmful internet content in an op-ed, Republicans in Washington expressed outrage that he was calling on the government to regulate speech. Within hours, the company’s top lobbyists started spreading another message to conservatives: Don’t take his suggestion too seriously. The operatives said Zuckerberg was not encouraging new limits on speech in the United States.
The House of Representatives passed legislation that would guarantee broadband internet users equal access to online content, in a crucial step toward bringing back so-called net neutrality regulations overturned by the Trump administration. In a 232 to 190 vote, divided along party lines, the Democratic majority made good on a promise that became a rallying cry in many progressive circles during the 2018 election. The legislation prohibits blocking and throttling web traffic and categorizes broadband as a service open to heavy regulation.
Facebook now faces investigations into its business practices from a variety of federal agencies. Officials have opened inquiries into possible civil and criminal violations of laws related to privacy, corporate governance and discrimination. Facebook has largely denied wrongdoing in each of the investigations and said it was cooperating with regulators and law enforcement. Here are the agencies looking into Facebook, and some of the issues involved.