In the latest sign that public opinion is shifting against Big Tech, President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice has now endorsed antitrust bills making their way through Congress that would prevent Silicon Valley giants from giving an unfair advantage to their own products.
If passed, the legislation would affect the ability of tech titans like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Meta (the recently organized parent company of Facebook,) to monopolize the market.
“’If enacted, we believe that this legislation has the potential to have a positive effect on dynamism in digital markets going forward,” wrote acting Assistant Attorney General Peter Hyun in a letter acquired by The Wall Street Journal.
“’Our future global competitiveness depends on innovators and entrepreneurs having the ability to access markets free from dominant incumbents that impede innovation, competition, resiliency, and widespread prosperity,” he added.
The letter was sent to lawmakers in Congress to signal the DOJ’s support for the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a piece of legislation that was passed by the Senate’s judiciary panel earlier this year. Meanwhile, a companion bill is making the rounds in the House and awaits full approval.
It’s an interesting position for the DOJ to take, and it signals that the Biden administration may be trying to respond—if somewhat belatedly—to the growing public ire against the dominant and virtually unchallengeable position occupied by the Big Tech giants. With the midterm elections swiftly approaching, this latest move may be an attempt to show the voting public that the administration takes their concerns about the monopolistic practices of Silicon Valley seriously.
The DOJ’s letter was forwarded to ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees and antitrust subcommittees, and it represents the clearest indication yet that the Justice Department thinks antitrust legislation can be enacted which will help boost the country’s technological competitiveness.
This has become an issue for all administrations—Democratic and Republican—in the face of China’s rise to global technological dominance on the back of U.S. innovation in recent decades. The growth of anticompetitive behemoths has acted to stifle innovation in the tech sector, which has mostly congealed into a few megacorporations that are beginning to show their age.
Hyun’s letter went on to allege that the appearance of unchallenged and dominating online platforms presents “a threat to open markets and competition, with risks for consumers, businesses, innovation, resiliency, global competitiveness, and our democracy.” Few things, it need hardly be said, are able to stimulate the Biden administration to swift action like a threat to “our democracy.”
Furthermore, the DOJ’s letter made the argument that the commanding position of the established tech titans gives them too much power to influence the success of smaller companies.
“Discriminatory conduct by dominant platforms can sap the rewards from other innovators and entrepreneurs, reducing the incentives for entrepreneurship and innovation,” Hyun observed in the letter.
“Even more importantly, the legislation may support the growth of new tech businesses adjacent to the platforms, which may ultimately pose a critically needed competitive check to the covered platforms themselves,” he added.
It’s no great surprise that Big Tech and Silicon Valley lobbyists strenuously object to the proposed legislation. They argue that the bill unduly discriminates against them, and could have harmful effects on the privacy and security of their customers. They also say, not without some merit, that it’s entirely fair for large search engines, app stores, and e-marketplaces to reap the rewards of their innovations and investments.
Klobuchar`s #antitrust bill – supported by a bunch of economic illiterate senators – wants to criminalize successful companies. The bill is anti-business, anti-capitalist & anti Americanhttps://t.co/1VVVLgLlu6#bigtech #nytimes #bloomberg #wsj #cnn #cnbc #wapo #latimes pic.twitter.com/bm6Ra4eC48
— DrGem (@DrGem2015) March 26, 2022
A Google spokesperson, for instance, told Axios that they are “concerned that Congress’ controversial package of bills could have unintended consequences, especially for small businesses who have relied on digital tools to adapt, recover and reach new customers throughout the pandemic.”
Undoubtedly there is a great deal of truth in that statement. But the Big Tech corporations haven’t exactly won themselves many fans through their heavy-handed tactics in recent years, such as unilaterally banning former President Donald Trump from their platforms, as well as reportedly “shadow-banning” prominent conservatives or even those who mildly disagree with the dominant leftist narrative of the day.
As for the antitrust legislation itself, there’s still a long way to go, and the bill’s passage is by no means assured. For the time being, lawmakers are working to craft a version of the legislation that actually has a chance of passing.
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