House Democrats are preparing their proposals to overhaul antitrust laws so that lawmakers can easily dismantle Big Tech companies, namely Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
Rep. David Cicilline, chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said his panel’s report on smashing Big Tech’s power will recommend “rehabilitating” antitrust laws, which may involve “creating a Glass-Steagall regime for platforms or mandating data portability and interoperability.” The Glass-Steagall Act in 1933 forced the separation of commercial and investment banks, and House Democrats want to take a similar approach to social media platforms and the data collected by tech companies.
“Our investigation has uncovered these dominant platforms increasingly used their gatekeeper power in abusive and coercive ways,” the Rhode Island Democrat told 40 liberal groups he met with Tuesday to preview his recommendations and strategize next steps. “They charge extortionary fees and impose oppressive contracts, they’ve engaged in anti-competitive strategies to protect their power, killing, copying or acquiring any potential competitors.”
Mr. Cicilline emphasized that the Glass-Steagall approach was still being debated and noted that lawmakers were assessing the need for an overhaul of the executive branch to provide greater enforcement of antitrust laws.
When they’re done dismantling the tech giants, Mr. Cicilline and the liberal activists want to build on that momentum in other industries. Mr. Cicilline said he views the charge to break up Big Tech as the beginning of America’s attack on monopolies.
Sarah Miller, American Economic Liberties Project executive director who helped organize the meeting, said the coming overhaul needs to represent a “fundamental shift in the way that Congress, policymakers and enforcers think about their relationship vis a vis concentrated, corporate power.”
“Congress is reasserting its authority against concentrated private power, and it couldn’t come a moment sooner,” Ms. Miller said.
The coalition included groups such as the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE), American Booksellers Association, Freedom from Facebook & Google, the Partnership for Working Families, and the Center for Popular Democracy, among many others.
Many of the groups have different reasons for wanting Big Tech knocked down, but all agree that the companies need to be regulated immediately.
“Black folks shouldn’t be forced to use platforms that enable White supremacist organizations and the rise of White nationalist authoritarianism,” Maurice BP-Weeks, ACRE executive director said in conversation with other liberal activists. “But because of the monopoly power of companies like Amazon, we have to, we have no choice. We can’t have companies like Amazon if we are to have true racial justice.”
Ms. Miller said monopolization is a systemic problem in the U.S. economy and you can find a new monopoly that needs regulating wherever you look. Mr. Cicilline, Ms. Miller and the other activists did not detail which companies or industry sectors they want to break up next.
The final report and recommendations from the antitrust subcommittee are anticipated to become public this fall, but the coronavirus outbreak may delay the end of the investigation that started last June.