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House Lawmakers Consider 6 Bills Forcing Major Changes Across Big Tech Business

06-23-2021
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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are pouring over a package of bills aimed at taking away some of the power from Big Tech. 

Six pieces of legislation are being debated in a committee before heading to the full House and it's proving to be a controversial process every step of the way. 

The bills in the House Judiciary Committee are going through what's known as a markup. That's the process where bills are debated, amended, and rewritten. A challenging process because, while most lawmakers believe something needs to happen, some feel the legislation goes too far while others say it's not enough.

The six bills take aim at some of the biggest names in corporate America: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google.

They range in scope from increasing fees that companies must pay when filing for a merger to barring a business from merging with a competitor.

"Amazon, Apple Facebook, and Google are gatekeepers to the online economy," said Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island. "They bury or buy rivals and abuse their monopoly powers.  Conduct that is harmful to consumers, competition, innovation and our democracy."

Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio said, "Big tech censors conservatives. These bills don't fix that problem, they make it worse.  They don't break up Big Tech. They don't stop censorship."

And these issues are not new. They've sparked fire on Capitol Hill hearings for months and some complain this latest effort creates a partnership that is powerful, but in the wrong way.

"Overall the power this gives to the FTC, Big Tech working together with big government, doesn't address the issue of breaking these big companies up," Jordan said.

Some lawmakers are eager to act even as tech companies have been the subject of lawsuits. For example, 48 states filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Facebook and the FTC did the same saying the social media giant needs to be broken up.   

"Facebook argues that consumers are free to choose an alternative if they are not happy with Facebook," said Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy director of public knowledge. "I think that's not really accurate. Of course, you can go to another social network, but the power that economists call network effect (the fact that all of our friends are on Facebook) makes it very difficult to choose an alternative."

Meanwhile, tech giants are pushing back hard against these bills.  

They're arguing that the proposed legislation would require them to break up or stop offering services that customers have come to demand. They also caution that the proposals could harm the U.S. economy just as the country is rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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