There are not many Congressional committees regularly engaged in substantive and serious work — most are performative — but the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law is an exception. Led by its chairman Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and ranking member Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), it is, with a few exceptions, composed of lawmakers whose knowledge of tech monopolies and anti-trust law is impressive.
In October, the Committee, after a sixteen-month investigation, produced one of those most comprehensive and informative reports by any government body anywhere in the world about the multi-pronged threats to democracy posed by four Silicon Valley monopolies: Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. The 450-page report also proposed sweeping solutions, including ways to break up these companies and/or constrain them from controlling our political discourse and political life. That report merits much greater attention and consideration than it has thus far received.
The Subcommittee held a hearing on Friday and I was invited to testify along with Microsoft President Brad Smith; President of the News Guild-Communications Workers of America Jonathan Schleuss, the Outkick’s Clay Travis, CEO of the Graham Media Group Emily Barr, and CEO of the News Media Alliance David Chavern. The ostensible purpose the hearing was a narrow one: to consider a bill that would vest media outlets with an exemption from anti-trust laws to collectively bargain with tech companies such as Facebook and Google so that they can obtain a greater share of the ad revenue. The representatives of the news industry and Microsoft who testified were naturally in favor of this bill (they have been heavily lobbying for it) because it would benefit them commercially in numerous way (the Microsoft President maintained the conceit that the Bill-Gates-founded company was engaging in self-sacrifice for the good of Democracy by supporting the bill but the reality is the Bing search engine owners are in favor of anything that weakens Google).
While I share the ostensible motive behind the bill — to stem the serious crisis of bankruptcies and closings of local news outlets — I do not believe that this bill will end up doing that,