What tech competition means to Capitol Hill
The word "competition" has a different meaning in Washington (DC) and other centers of regulation around the globe than it does in Silicon Valley. Industry leaders view acquiring startups, keeping customers inside their existing ecosystems, and trying to dominate new platforms as part of the natural process of business competition. Yet this sounds alarm bells for regulators and legislators, who view the size of today's tech giants, and their outsized societal influence as a problem in itself. To solve these problems — including user surveillance, the spread of misinformation and gig-economy labor abuses — the industry's DC critics have turned in part to the US's numerous antitrust laws. However, conflict over the meaning of "competition" in this space has shifted from a focus on lowering consumer prices and preventing monopolies, to big-tech firms vying for privacy moderation policies that better accommodate their customers' privacy. To accomplish this shift, the Biden Administration is leveraging antitrust mechanisms to reshape the competitive landscape along this sentiment. Additionally, lawmakers in DC differ in their interpretations of big-tech firms acquiring smaller or mid-sized startups. One camp aims to bar mergers between big-tech firms and tech companies above a certain size, while the other believes such sentiments would "quash" innovation and diminish an otherwise thriving startup sector. DC's effort to rewrite the rules of tech competition faces two tests in the coming months. These include Sen Amy Klobuchar's (D-MN) sponsorship of a bill banning large tech companies from favoring their own services and a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawsuit against Meta, which continues to unfold.
What tech competition means to the Beltway