Former Democrats are pushing against attempts by members of their own party to regulate large technology companies, in light of how difficult progressives are likely to find it in rewriting U.S. competition laws.
Democratic members of the House of Representatives have attacked a package of measures promoted by members of the House’s antitrust committee, as opposition grows to radical proposals that some hopes could lead to the breakup of Big Tech.
The rift shows how difficult it will be to enact a major overhaul of U.S. antitrust laws, even as President Joe Biden plans to sign his own executive order to strengthen the powers of regulators to promote competition in their sectors.
Zoe Lofgren, a California Democratic spokeswoman, told the Financial Times: “I don’t think they’ve spent much time drafting these projects. Some of the measures in them are embarrassing…. I’m in favor of making adjustments to them. antitrust laws, but some of these are radical. ”
Lou Correa, another Democratic representative from California, said, “I’m not sure we should try to break some of these companies. And why do we select American companies, and especially those from California?”
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee passed six bills aimed at breaking the corporate power of those who love Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple.
The move is part of a broader push to enact the most significant change in U.S. competition law in a generation. But industry lobbyists are targeting centrist Democrats and those in California in particular as they try to block more radical measures.
One of the factors prohibits large technology companies from giving preferential treatment to their products and could stop practices like Amazon from using their online store to promote the products it has made. Another prevents them from buying rivals or nascent competitors, as Facebook has done with WhatsApp and Instagram.
Biden has signaled his support for taking on Big Tech by appointing Lina Khan, a law professor who called for Amazon’s breakup, to chair the Federal Trade Commission and Tim Wu, another important critic, as a White House adviser. . Amazon on Wednesday filed a petition with the FTC, asking Khan to refuse any inquiries concerning the company.
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Wu is one of those working on an executive order that will give greater power to industry regulators to encourage competition in their sectors. In part of this order, officials have considered ordering regulators to ban “non-compete” clauses, which have been used by companies. including Amazon to prevent its employees from going to work for its rivals.
A White House spokesman said: “The president has made it clear during his campaign that he is committed to increasing competition in the American economy… But there is no final decision on any action to be taken. this moment “.
Big Tech critics are set to push for legislative changes after antitrust lawsuits filed against Facebook by the FTC and dozens of state attorneys general using existing competition law were thrown out of court this week .
But comments from Lofgren and Correa show how difficult it will be to pass such legislation, even if it has attracted the support of a handful of Republican critics of Big Tech. It came days after Steny Hoyer, the Democratic leader in the House, warned that the bills had sparked opposition from former members of his party and they were not ready by a vote from the plenary chamber.
Earlier this month, a separate set of warned eight Democrats bills “may weaken personal privacy protections [and] computer security, and increase the spread of dangerous conspiracy theories and misinformation. ”
Democrats have a meager majority in the House of Representatives and Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republican minority, has signaled his opposition. An industry lobbyist has expressed confidence that the projects will not go through the House, saying, “The centrist Democrats and the California delegation will be watching.”
Adam Kovacevich, chief executive of the House of Progress, a new Democratic group representing the technology industry, said: “We are focusing our efforts on those Democrats who are not on the judiciary committee and we ask them,‘ It’s over. something that your electorate is clamoring for? ‘”
David Cicilline, chairman of the House’s antitrust subcommittee, told the FT that he did not expect the concerns of his fellow Democrats to prevent a full House vote.
“I fully hope that these projects will receive a vote and get bipartisan support,” he said. “Not everyone is aware that this legislation is the product of a 16-month investigation to really study these platforms, and that we spent the first six months of this year drafting current pieces of legislation.”
If the bills pass the House, they could secure support in the Senate from Republicans like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, who have both been prominent critics of Big Tech.
But with 60 votes needed to beat a filibuster, industry lobbyists believe only less controversial measures, such as a move to increase funding to competition regulators, have a chance to pass.