Show an ad over header. AMP

Congress' next moves to rein in Big Tech

After grilling the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple last week, members of Congress are grappling with whether to accuse any of the firms of illegal anticompetitive behavior, to propose updating federal antitrust laws — or both.

The big picture: Congress is just one arm of government making the case against these companies. Google is expected to be the first of the firms to face possible antitrust litigation from the Justice Department before summer's end, but all four face a full-court press of investigations by DOJ, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.


What's next: Following on from last week's hearing, the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is preparing a report of its probe's findings, drawn from some 1.3 million documents and hours of calls and interviews. Chair Rep. David Cicilline told Axios Re:Cap he hopes to issue the report and recommendations by late August or September.

The report may detail behaviors that investigators conclude harmed competition, as outlined in the hearing:

  • Facebook undertook its 2012 acquisition of Instagram in part because executives viewed it as a competitive threat, per internal communications uncovered in the probe.
  • Lawmakers also highlighted Amazon's use of third-party sales data to develop its own products.

The lawmakers face two options:

  • They can argue that tech giants have violated antitrust law and lay out a legal case for breaking them up. That's tough, as the case that the companies have monopolies remains fuzzy and none of them has driven up prices for consumers — two bars that successful antitrust cases are expected to pass.
  • They can make recommendations to update antitrust laws for the digital economy. That will require coming up with metrics of harm other than pricing effects, since so many digital products are free, and it will also call for definitions of markets that address the kind of power Amazon holds over third-party sellers or Apple holds over App Store developers.

Antitrust panel members suggest they'll ultimately produce some combination of the two.

  • "Some of the things we uncovered, like Facebook clearly admitting to buying a competitor for market share, I believe is breaking the law under current antitrust regulation," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told Axios. Other areas, such as Google's dominance in the ad tech space, may need newer laws to address, she said.
  • Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) told Axios, "We've got to sit down and talk about what changes in the law would solve some of the issues we have identified. I feel strongly that there is a need for regulation in the digital arena."

What we're hearing: Groups that advocate tough measures against tech companies want to see detailed legislative recommendations.

  • The Economic Liberties Project, for instance, wants new antitrust laws to set "bright-line" caps on how much market share any one tech firm can hold, executive director Sarah Miller told Axios.
  • The group also wants to see Congress require regulators to claw apart Amazon's e-commerce platform from its storage and shipping business, per a letter to the House Judiciary committee Thursday also signed by several other groups including the Open Markets Institute, Demand Progress and The Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

But, but, but: The fate of any proposals to emerge from the House investigation almost certainly lies with voters in November. New antitrust legislation — a long shot at any time — is unlikely to progress unless Democrats win both the White House and the Senate.

Commission releases topics for first presidential debate

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has selected what topics he'll cover while moderating the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden next week.

What to watch: Topics for the Sept. 29 debate will include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, economic policy, racism and the integrity of the election, the Commission for Presidential Debates announced on Tuesday. Each topic will receive 15 minutes of conversation and will be presented in no particular order.

Keep reading... Show less

"A long way to go": Fed chair warns economy will feel the weight of expired stimulus

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday that the expiration of Congress' coronavirus stimulus will weigh on the U.S. economy.

Why it matters: Powell warned that the effects of dried-up benefits are a looming risk to the economy, even if the consequences aren't yet visible.

Keep reading... Show less

Beijing draws Chinese companies even closer

Chinese Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping announced last week that the party must strengthen its leadership over private companies, and that entrepreneurs must meet the party's needs. 

Why it matters: Xi's new announcement will increase fears that Chinese businesses may serve as a Trojan horse for the CCP.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump to meet with Supreme Court candidate Barbara Lagoa in Florida on Friday

President Trump has arranged to meet with shortlisted Supreme Court candidate Barbara Lagoa during a campaign visit to Florida on Friday, according to two sources familiar with his plans.

What we're hearing: Sources who know both Trump and Lagoa say they still expect the president to pick Judge Amy Coney Barrett, but they view the Lagoa meeting as a wild card because they say she has a charismatic personality that would appeal to Trump.

Keep reading... Show less

The U.S. now has more then 200,000 coronavirus deaths

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Axios Visuals

The coronavirus has now killed 200,000 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Whatever contextyou try to put this in, it is a catastrophe of historic proportions — and is yet another reminder of America's horrific failure to contain the virus.

Keep reading... Show less

In UN address, Trump says China "unleashed this plague onto the world"

President Trump used a virtual address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to defend his response to the coronavirus and call on other countries to “hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China.”

Setting the scene: Trump ticked through four years of major decisions and accomplishments in what could be his last address to the UN. But first, he launched into a fierce attack on China as Beijing’s representative looked on in the assembly hall.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump says he will announce Supreme Court pick on Saturday

President Trump tweeted Tuesday that he plans to announce his Supreme Court pick on Saturday.

Why it matters: Republicans are moving fast to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which would tilt the balance of the high court in conservatives' favor and have lasting impact on climate policy, immigration and the Affordable Care Act. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who met with the president this week, is a frontrunner for the job.

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories