Antitrust probe agrees on problems, divided over solutions

Mark Zuckerberg in front of the Facebook logo
Mark Zuckerberg in front of the Facebook logo (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • A House subcommittee probing competition in big tech believes there is a "significant" problem.
  • Members of the committee are united that companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple have acted anticompetitively.
  • The groups report has been delayed whilst negotiations over solutions take place.

A report from the House antitrust committee has been delayed as members of the committee try to hash out solutions to "significant" anticompetitive behavior.

According to Politico:

Congress should grant federal antitrust enforcers more resources to take on Silicon Valley's giants, a key House Judiciary Republican says in a report circulated Monday — while warning against yet-to-be-unveiled Democratic proposals that would make it easier to take steps such as breaking up companies.

A draft report is based on 16 months of investigation into big tech companies, including testimony from Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg. According to Politico, both Democrats and Republicans agree regarding their findings of anticompetitive behavior and the need for better legislation:

Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, a Republican on the House antitrust subcommittee, wrote in the draft memo that while he agrees with the committee's Democratic majority that "antitrust enforcement agencies need additional resources and tools to provide proper oversight" of the tech giants, other recommendations Democrats are expected to include in the panel's final report "are non-starters for conservatives."

As this notes, however, there is less agreement on the proposed solutions. Disagreement seems to abound over proposals such as eliminating arbitration clauses, further opening up companies to class action lawsuits, and "advancing legislation to force structural breakups of major online platforms like Amazon."

Buck wrote that the report gave a "chilling look" at how Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook "have used their power to control how we see and understand the world."

In a statement Buck said:

"I agree with Chairman Cicilline that Big Tech has acted in an anticompetitive manner. The next phase is to start working on solutions. With a problem this significant, one shouldn't be surprised that there is a variety of legislative solutions being offered."

A report to be published by the group has been delayed, following an offer to negotiate on aspects of the proposed recommendations that could guide future legislation.

Stephen Warwick