A bipartisan group of House lawmakers rolled out five bills Friday that aim to rein in so-called ‘Big Tech,’ targeting companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
The bills were announced by House Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Republican Rep. Ken Buck, the ranking member.
‘Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy. They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work,’ Cicilline said. ‘Our agenda will level the playing field and ensure the wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us.’
Buck added that ‘Big Tech has abused its dominance in the marketplace to crush competitors, censor speech, and control how we see and understand the world.’
The Wall Street Journal got early word of the bills Friday, including one piece that could force Amazon to split into two companies or shed their own branded products.
Another bill would ban big tech companies from using their platforms to give their own products a leg up.
Amazon.com’s headquarters in Seattle. Amazon is among ‘Big Tech’ companies expected to be targeted by new antitrust legislation that could be rolled out as early as Friday
Lauren Sanchez (left) and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (right). The legislation could force Amazon to split its platform business away from its branded products business
Apple CEO Tim Cook. The legislation, if passed, could also impact how Apple runs its app store
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is captured testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March. Facebook’s big enough that it could also be targeted by the bills
Congress has been looking at the size and power of so-called ‘Big Tech’ for the past 15 months.
Each of the House bills has Democratic and Republican support.
One of the bills, called the ‘Ending Platform Monopolies Act’ says, ‘It shall be unlawful for a covered platform operator to own or control a line of business, other than the covered platform, when the covered platform’s ownership or control of that line of business gives rise to an irreconcilable conflict of interest.’
It’s being sponsored by Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas.
‘From Amazon and Facebook to Google and Apple, it is clear that these unregulated tech giants have become too big to care and too powerful to ever put people over profits,’ Jayapal said. ‘By reasserting the power of Congress, our landmark bipartisan bills rein in anti-competitive behavior, prevent monopolistic practices, and restore fairness and competition while finally leveling the playing field and allowing innovation to thrive.’
Amazon is headquartered in Seattle, Washington.
The Journal compared the bill to the Glass-Steagall act, which separates commercial from investment banking.
While Amazon sells third-party goods, it also sells its own branded products, and often for far cheaper.
It’s also been found to use third-party data to inform what products it makes.
A second bill deals with a company’s self-preferencing, in which a company uses it’s platform or exclusive access to data to advantage other areas of business – such as how Amazon handles its retail business or how Apple manages its app store.
The legislation is targeted at Big Tech, with the companies needing to have a market capitalization of $600 billion or more or more than 500,000 active monthly users, the Journal said.
Under those parameters only Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google would currently qualify.
Three other bills are also included that deal with making online platforms interoperable with competitors, mergers and filing fees.
The bills would have to be passed through a Democrat-controlled House and then onto a Senate, where the Democrats’ narrow majority means the bills would need 10 Republican votes to override a filibuster threat.
While both parties have been critical of ‘Big Tech’ in recent years, Republicans are less likely to support changing the country’s antitrust laws.