It seems that instead of breaking up Big Tech companies in order to control their stranglehold on the market, the new US administration plans to break up a comprehensive, single antitrust bill into a number of smaller ones.
David Cicilline, who heads the antitrust subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee of the US Congress, has revealed his plans regarding ways to legislatively tackle the issue of Big Tech’s market dominance.
Cicilline told Axios that instead of drafting one bill that would seek to curb the monopolistic power of these tech giants – particularly Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google – he would push for a number of smaller and specific pieces of legislation.
And this Democrat also announced a proposal that would take on the Communications Decency Act (DCA) Section 230 – from the point of view of preventing companies like Facebook from algorithmically surfacing particular user generated content.
On the antitrust front, Cicilline did not provide many details about what the “swarm” of bills targeting Big Tech might contain, but seems to think that the trillion dollar companies and their, in his words, armies of lobbyists in Washington will be caught on the wrong foot by ten or more smaller bills instead of just one, with their reaction time longer, and therefore, apparently less efficient.
Another reason to abandon ideas of a comprehensive antitrust proposal is to allow both Republicans and Democrats to float their ideas in the hope of finding consensus to adopt these bills.
Cicilline also referred to the recommendations stemming from a bipartisan investigation launched in June 2019 and carried out by the subcommittee, saying he would utilize them “all” in the upcoming proposals.
The subcommittee’s report, a 450-page document, concluded, among other things, that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, while different in many ways, have in common the fact that they now serve as gatekeepers over key distribution channels.
“By controlling access to markets, these giants can pick winners and losers throughout our economy,” the report warned.
As far as Section 230 is concerned, Cicilline wasn’t clear during the interview whether the plan is to take away or condition continued legal protections enjoyed by Big Tech for user generated content, but did say that “very complicated algorithm(s)” like the one used by Facebook to drive engagement should make a company liable.