House Democrats called for an overhaul of antitrust laws to break up Silicon Valley, comparing them to Gilded Age monopolies, even as tech giants backed their calls for increased speech policing ahead of the November election.
That’s the main thrust of the 449-page report released on Tuesday by the majority on the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee. It found that Google has an unfair monopoly on online searches, Facebook rules online advertising and social networking, Apple controls all software on iOS devices, and Amazon effectively monopolizes third-party sellers and many suppliers.
Big Tech used “killer acquisitions” to buy out rivals, forced small businesses into “oppressive” contracts and charged exorbitant fees because they could, the report argued.
To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.
Moreover, competing in the marketplaces of their own making created “a position that enables them to write one set of rules for others, while they play by another,” the report added.
As proposed remedies, the Democrats want to give more money and power to the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. They also want to eliminate arbitration and allow class-action suits.
Platforms would also be forced to offer “equal terms for equal products and services,” rather than preferential treatment to their own, and be required to make their service compatible with competitors so users could transfer their data between them.
Breaking up the companies is also on the table. The report urges lawmakers to override “problematic precedents” in antitrust case law and review past mergers and acquisitions, such as Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp.
Allied Orthopedic Appliances v. Tyco Health Care Group LP; Ohio v. American Express; and United States v. Sabre Corp.AND clarifying that market definition is not required for proving an antitrust violation, especially in the presence of direct evidence of market power.2/2
— Hal Singer (@HalSinger) October 6, 2020
Moreover, it wants to change the rules for future mergers to force companies to prove they would not harm competition,