WASHINGTON – US lawmakers on Wednesday night debated the details of legislation aimed at curbing the power of Big Tech firms with sweeping reforms to antitrust laws.
The House Judiciary Committee clashed over a series of bills with potentially massive implications for large online platforms and the consumers who use them.
The law could force the business practices of Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook to change, or potentially lead to the breakup of the major tech giants. But critics argue that the measures could have unintended consequences that would harm consumers and some of the most popular online services.
Rep. David Sicilin, who led the 16-month investigation that led to the legislation, said the bills are intended to restore competition in markets hit by monopolies.
“The digital marketplace suffers from a lack of competition. Many digital markets are defined by monopolies or monopolistic controls,” Sicilin said at the start of the hearing.
“Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are the gatekeepers of the online economy. They bury or abuse their monopolistic power practices by rivals that are detrimental to consumers, competition, innovation and our democracy.”
The bills would restrict how online platforms operate, specifically whether tech giants can favor their own products or services.
These measures will also limit mergers or acquisitions by Big Tech firms aimed at limiting competition and make it easier for users to try out new services by requiring data “portability” and “interoperability”.
The future of the bills remained unclear, with some Republicans and moderate Democrats expressing concern despite bipartisan support.
Points of conflict included whether it was right to target the laws at the big four tech companies and whether government agencies would influence them rather than make them competitive.
“The interoperability measure is a huge step backwards,” said Oregon Republican Cliff Bentz. “Big Tech is definitely not perfect. This bill is not the way to fix the problem.”
Representative Zoe Lofgren said she expects the bill to include more measures for data privacy and security but supports the concept.
“The big platforms have all your information. And if you can’t move it, you are really a prisoner of that stage,” she said. “Who wants to leave a stage if they stopped all your baby photos and all your grandchildren’s videos?”
As the session progressed into the night, some members of the body advocated adjournment and resumption of work on the second day.
‘They make it worse’
Republican Representative Ken Buck, a supporter of the overhaul, said the legislation “represents a scalpel for these monopolies (who) routinely use their gatekeeper power to deal with the most important aspects of antitrust reform”, not that represents a chainsaw”. crushing competitors, harming innovation and destroying the free market.”
But Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican, criticized the effort, renewing his argument that Big Tech firms suppress conservative voices.
“These bills don’t fix that problem — they make it worse,” Jordan said. “They don’t break Big Tech. They don’t stop censorship.”
Steve Chabot, another Republican, called the initiative “an effort for big government to handle Big Tech.”
The panel approved a bill on a 29-12 vote that was the least controversial, raising the merger’s filing fees to give more money for antitrust enforcement.
Tech firms and others warned of negative consequences for popular services people rely on, potentially forcing Apple to stop displaying results from its messaging app on the iPhone or Google to YouTube or Maps Does matter.
Apple released a report arguing that a potential impact — opening the iPhone to apps from external platforms — could pose a security and privacy risk to users.
The report said allowing Apple to “sideloading” of apps would mean “malicious actors will take advantage of the opportunity by devoting more resources to developing sophisticated attacks targeting iOS users.”
Amazon Vice President Brian Hussein warned of “significant negative impact” and reduced price competition for both sellers and consumers using the e-commerce platform.
“It will be very difficult for these third party vendors to create awareness for their business,” Hussain said.
“Removing these sellers’ selects from Amazon’s stores would also create less price competition for products, and eliminate the possibility of price increases for consumers. The committee moved unnecessarily quickly in moving these bills.” has been.”
The measures could also affect other firms, including Microsoft, which has not been the focus of the House antitrust investigation, but which links services such as Teams Messaging and Bing Search to its Windows platform, and possibly other firms.