House Continues Deep Dive into Digital Antitrust and Big Tech

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The House Antitrust Subcommittee heard from two major players in the government's review of Big Tech and whether the antitrust laws have kept up with their exponential growth, but not before the legislators had staked out their own positions. Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI) pulled no punches, saying that the extreme concentration of online platforms may have some benefits, but they were clearly using their power to set market terms that enrich themselves and make it impossible to compete. He also commented on Google and Fitbit. “Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit would threaten to give it yet another way to surveil users and entrench its monopoly power online," he said. He said the power Big Tech wields is in some measures unprecedented, while government regulators have been paralyzed. Full Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) echoed that criticism. He said they were at a critical moment when a handful of dominant companies control "commerce, content, and communications." He got specific, pointing out that Google had over 90% of search, Facebook over 80% of social media revenues, and Amazon over half of online commerce.

Witnesses for the hearing were Department of Justice antitrust chief Makan Delrahim and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons. Delrahim and Simons both talked about their ongoing, separate, investigations into Big Tech and antitrust, but both talked about the actions they had already taken in the digital space, and that they would take future action if their investigation warrants. On the issue of enforcement, FTC Chairman Simons conceded that the FTC was resource-restrained so it focused on cases it had a better likelihood of winning, adding that if it had more money, it could pursue more cases. 

House Continues Deep Dive into Digital Antitrust and Big Tech FTC Testifies before House Judiciary Subcommittee On Competition Enforcement and Policy, Including in Technology Markets Top antitrust Dem presses DOJ, FTC on Google's Fitbit acquisition (The Hill) Washington's top tech regulators say they don't have the right weapons (Washington Post) FTC head asks Congress for real privacy laws he can enforce (Ars Technica)