Technology Mar 22

US joins in antitrust scrutiny of Big Tech companies

Democratic Congressman unveils plan to launch slew of bills aimed at advancing  recommendations in panel's investigation into competition in digital marketplace

US joins in antitrust scrutiny of Big Tech companies
The US House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee’s anti-monopoly panel released a report detailing what it described as abuses of market power by Apple, Amazon, Alphabet's Google and Facebook. File photo montage by Reuters.

(ATF) The US could be on the verge of joining the global anti-Big Tech push, as a top legislator was reported on Sunday to be preparing at least 10 bills targeting alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

The US House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee’s anti-trust panel, released a 449-page report in October 2020 detailing what it described as abuses of market power by Apple, Amazon, Alphabet's Google and Facebook.

Now, Democratic Representative David Cicilline, chairman of the panel, has told the Axios news website at the weekend that it is time to act on the report.

“If you look at the way these technology companies have staffed up with their lobbying and the money they're investing in Washington, it's designed ... to prevent any changes to the current ecosystem that benefits them enormously," Cicilline told Axios.

The representative said his intention is to use this range of bills to advance all the recommendations in his panel's 450-page investigation into competition in the digital marketplace.

Cicilline is also working on a separate bill targeting a key law called Section 230, which offers protection to tech platforms from liability over the content that users post, Reuters reported.

CONTINUING SCRUTINY

After the administration of Donald Trump heavily criticised tech companies – whom he believed favoured the Democrats – many pundits thought the pressure would ease after Joe Biden took office in January.

However, the scrutiny has continued under the Democratic control of the White House and Congress.

“Technology stocks tumbled as fears that anti-trust investigations and new regulations on big tech could follow,” Jeffrey Halley, senior Asia Pacific market analyst at OANDA in New York, said.

“I believe 2021 could be big tech’s Standard Oil year," he said, referring to the 1911 US Supreme Court case that resulted in the breakup of the petroleum behemoth into 34 separate companies.

The US has followed India, EU and other countries in putting Big Tech under the regulatory microscope. Nowhere has the spotlight been brighter than in China, especially in financial technology, or fintech, where lending meets the internet.

“Since the second half of 2020, Chinese authorities have published a slew of regulations to strengthen regulatory requirements for fintech activities, an area which had grown rapidly but was lightly regulated previously,” said Sally Yim, managing director (financial Institutions) at Moody’s Investor Services.

“From a credit perspective, this is a significant shift in the government's regulatory stance for financial institutions and non-financial companies that engage in fintech undertakings,” she added.

With reporting by Reuters

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US Microsoft Amazon Google Alphabet Apple Facebook regulation Big Tech antitrust China EU India