On Friday the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust introduced five bills designed to address the findings of their 16-month investigation into Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. The legislation, introduced with various Republican cosponsors, represents the first comprehensive legislative effort to address the dominant market power and potentially anti-competitive practices of the major Big Tech companies.
The “techlash,” in other words, is finally more than just strongly worded letters, pointed questions with little follow-through, or made-for-YouTube chest-thumping at congressional hearings. It now has meaningful and bipartisan legislative form, with a guarantee of committee consideration.
For years, concerns about Big Tech have been dismissed as “grievance politics” with partisan camps trenching and re-trenching over misinformation policies, accusations of censorship, and general outrage politicking over banned accounts or accounts not banned enough. The tech companies and their network of policy allies have relied on this pattern as a reason to eyeroll, cluck, and moralize about the unserious and scattershot aims of a Congress doing nothing more than demagoguing a successful industry while trying to control speech online.
It is striking, then, that these bills have nothing directly to do with speech. Rather, they represent a singular focus on market power, discrimination against competitors, and manipulation of competition. This legislation is a wager that the more partisan aspects of platform expression can be solved by addressing its root enabler: a concentration of economic power sustained via uncompetitive means.
To that end, the five bills are designed to address specific practices and policies that the subcommittee believes have disadvantaged competitors, and unfairly and uncompetitively entrenched market dominance.
There is no doubt these bills will be controversial, if for nothing else than the action itself is so unusual. It has been decades since Congress has roused itself to take a critical look at how its
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