When the nation’s antitrust laws were created more than a century ago, they were aimed at taking on industries such as Big Oil.
But technology giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple have risen in ways unforeseen by the laws. In recent decades, the courts have also interpreted the rules more narrowly.
On Monday, a pair of rulings dismissing federal and state antitrust lawsuits against Facebook renewed questions about whether the laws were suited to taking on tech power. A federal judge threw out the federal suit because, he said, the Federal Trade Commission had not supported its claims that Facebook holds a dominant market share, and he said the states had waited too long to make their case.
This week’s rulings have now put the pressure on lawmakers to push through a recently proposed package of legislation that would rewrite key aspects of monopoly laws to make some of the tech giants’ business practices illegal.
“This is going to strengthen the case for legislation,” said Herbert Hovenkamp, an antitrust expert at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “It seems to be proof that the antitrust laws are not up to the challenge.”
The legislation, which is made up of six bills, was introduced this month and passed the House Judiciary Committee last week. The bills would make it harder for the major tech companies to buy nascent competitors and to give preference to their own services on their platforms, and ban them from using their dominance in one business to gain the upper hand in another.
The White House is also expected to issue an executive order targeting corporate consolidation in tech and other areas of the economy. The order is still being drafted, and officials said Mr. Biden had not yet reviewed it. White House officials have declined to discuss it in detail until he signs it, most likely next week.