Democrats plan to take on big tech with 5 major antitrust bills aimed at making it easier to weaken monopolies

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House Democrats plan to introduce five separate bills as early as this week that could dramatically reign in big tech companies’ economic dominance, Politico reported Wednesday.

The bills address a number of lawmakers’ concerns about the growing power of tech titans like Amazon, Apple, Alphabet-owned Google, and Facebook.

One bill, headed up by Rep. Pramilia Jayapal, of Washington, would let the Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission sue to break up tech companies by forcing them to sell parts of their business that present a conflict of interest, Politico reported. That could spell trouble for companies like Amazon and Google, which critics say use their dominance of web hosting and digital ad markets to promote their own products and services.

A second bill, authored by Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, would ban large tech companies from favoring their own products in digital marketplaces they operate and set the rules for, according to Politico. That takes aim at how Apple’s App Store policies impact app developers and how Amazon treats third-party sellers in its marketplace.

A third bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, of New York, would prohibit platform companies from acquiring or merging with potential competitors, Politico reported. That follows criticism of Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, and the FTC’s probe into potentially anticompetitive acquisitions by Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

A fourth bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, of Pennsylvania, would require platforms with more than 500,000 US users, or those designated by regulators as a “critical trading partner,” to make it easier for users to move their data to rival platforms, Politico reported. Lawmakers have criticized Facebook and Google for hoarding users’ personal data in an endless “feedback loop” that helps them maintain their market power.

The final bill, identical to one sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in a spending bill that passed this week, Politico reported, would require companies to pay antitrust regulators more when seeking their approval for mergers. Regulators are vastly underresourced compared to the tech giants they’re tasked with regulating, placing them at a huge disadvantage if they seek to block a merger and it goes to court – increased legal fees could help balance the scales.

The set of bills reflects recommendations from a landmark 449-page House Judiciary Committee report last fall that called the companies monopolies that needed to be broken up.

The report was the result of an extensive investigation in which the committee probed whether major tech companies had used their size and market position to engage in anticompetitive behaviors that unfairly harmed rivals, consumers, and society more broadly.

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Google is reportedly about to get hit this week with a second major antitrust lawsuit – this time from states accusing the company of designing its search engine to hurt rivals

Sundar Pichai speaks during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco
CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco.

  • A bipartisan group of state attorneys general is planning to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google this week, Politico reported on Tuesday evening.
  • The suit is expected to accuse Google of designing its search engine to favor its own specialized search products over the specialized search tools of competitors, according to Politico.
  • This latest legal challenge follows a recent spree of antitrust cases brought against tech giants, including a lawsuit brought against Google by the DOJ in October.
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Google will soon be facing another federal antitrust lawsuit, this time over the design of its search engine, Politico reported Tuesday.

A bipartisan group of state attorneys general – led by Colorado’s Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser, and Nebraska’s Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson – plan to file a complaint against Google as early as Thursday, according to Politico.

The states’ complaint is expected to accuse Google of anti-competitive behavior by modifying its search engine to boost results for its own products while disadvantaging results for competitors that provide specialized search results, Politico reported.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on the planned lawsuit.

Consumers often begin their decisions about where to shop online, look for jobs, book travel accommodations, and make dining plans with a Google search. From there, they could end up visiting sites like Amazon and Etsy, LinkedIn and Monster.com, TripAdvisor and Airbnb, or Yelp and OpenTable – or Google’s own products, such as: Google Shopping, Google Careers, Google Flights, and Google Maps.

Many competing search result providers have argued that Google unfairly leverages control over its search engine to give its own specialized search products premium placement, steering users away from its competitors or forcing them to pay Google for ads in order to secure prime real estate.

The planned lawsuit stems from an investigation launched in September 2019 by attorneys general from 48 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. 

It also comes on the heels of another major antitrust case filed against Google by the Department of Justice in October and joined by 12 states (California joined earlier this month).

That lawsuit argued that Google uses a network of illegal, exclusionary business deals that disadvantage smaller competitors, building an unfair advantage in search and online advertising, marking the largest legal challenge Google has faced and is likely to result in a court fight that could last years.

In a blog post, Google’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, called the lawsuit “deeply flawed.”

Politico reported that some states from the DOJ’s case may also sign onto the forthcoming lawsuit because it focuses on a different aspect of Google’s search dominance.

Read more: 7 lawyers helping Google fight landmark antitrust charges in a battle that could stretch on for years, from in-house pros to DOJ veterans

Federal and state regulators have grown increasingly aggressive in probing major tech companies over potential monopolistic behavior, and in recent months have filed major lawsuits that could have huge impacts on those businesses as well as their users, customers, and competitors.

Last week, Facebook was hit with two massive antitrust lawsuits  – one from the Federal Trade Commission and one from a group of 46 states – both seeking to spin off Instagram and WhatsApp from the social media company.

European regulators, which have long been ahead of their US counterparts in taking on tech companies over antitrust concerns, have also filed lawsuits, opened investigations, and issued fines this year against tech giants including Amazon, Apple, and Facebook

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