October 13, 2020—A presidential administration led by Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden would bring substantive changes to the enforcement of antitrust law, panelists predicted at a Brookings Institution event on October 6.
Bill Baer, an expert in antitrust law and visiting fellow of governance studies at Brookings the Institution, recounted how surprised he was that so many Republicans actually supported greater antitrust enforcement.
Now, he said, they would actually allow law enforcement to go after abusive behavior and inappropriate acquisitions by large firms. Baer recently testified before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee.
He predicted that this – with an election of Biden – might produce a “perfect storm” that would involve substantive changes to antitrust law for the first time since the early 1950s.
These issues will probably not be addressed till late spring or summer 2021. Though relevant, antitrust won’t be the first item on the docket of either a Biden administration or a new Trump administration. Still, Baer predicted that we may see legislative changes before law enforcement changes, which is very unusual, he said.
If Trump were elected, the Justice Department antitrust division will probably challenge Google and the Federal Trade Commission will probably challenge Facebook.
The latter would likely be a “hot potato” to be sorted out between the new head of the antitrust division and the new chair of the FTC, because even if a lawsuit were premature and on shaky grounds, there may still be a need for it, said Baer.
On predicting which administration would be friendlier to Silicon Valley, Nicol Turner Lee, senior fellow of governance studies and director of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brooking’s Institution, said that while Congress will ultimately determine which party dictates the agenda, an administration of Biden and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris would have to do something to address the current perception that they are “cozy” with Silicon Valley companies.
Panelists agreed that if Biden won the election, passage of a federal privacy bill may be made more urgent. Turner Lee suggested that there may be structural changes with Harris looking at tech policies around hiring and discrimination, as well as improving algorithmic accountability.
Alex Engler, Rubenstein fellow of governance studies at Brooking’s Institution, predicted that Biden would probably try to push for regulation of facial recognition and systems for bail release, while Trump would be unlikely to address these things.
Engler also predicted that under Biden, changes to Section 230 would likely be more incremental, saying “It’s not just keep it or scrap it.”
Turner Lee agreed with Engler, and added that often people don’t think about if the social media problems they’re facing are due to Section 230, algorithmic amplification or something else.
Alexandra Levine, technology reporter at Politico, moderated the session.
‘Time is Now’ for Separate Big Tech Regulatory Agency, Public Interest Group Says
‘We need to recognize that absolutely the time is now. It is neither too soon nor too late.’
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2022 – Public Knowledge, non-profit public interest group, further advocated Thursday support for the Digital Platform Commission Act introduced in the Senate in May that would create a new federal agency designed to regulate digital platforms on an ongoing basis.
“We need to recognize that absolutely the time is now. It is neither too soon nor too late,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge.
The DPCA, introduced by Senator Michael Bennet, D-CO., and Representative Peter Welch, D-VT., would, if adopted, create a new federal agency designed to “provide comprehensive, sector-specific regulation of digital platforms to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.”
The independent body would conduct hearings, research and investigations all while promoting competition and establishing rules with appropriate penalties.
Public Knowledge primarily focuses on competition in the digital marketplace. It champions for open internet and has openly advocated for antitrust legislation that would limit Big Tech action in favor of fair competition in the digital marketspace.
Feld published a book in 2019 titled, “The Case for the Digital Platform Act: Breakups, Starfish Problems and Tech Regulation.” In it, Feld explains the need for a separate government agency to regulate digital platforms.
Digital regulation is new but has rapidly become critical to the economy, continued Feld. As such, it is necessary for the government to create a completely new agency in order to provide the proper oversight.
In the past, Congress empowered independent bodies with effective tools and expert teams when it lacked expertise to oversee complex sectors of the economy but there is no such body for digital platforms, said Feld.
FTC Commissioner Concerned About Antitrust Impact on Already Rising Consumer Prices
Noah Phillips said Tuesday he wants the commission to think about the impact of antitrust rules on rising prices.
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2022 – Rising inflation should be a primary concern for the Federal Trade Commission when considering antitrust regulations on Big Tech, said Commissioner Noah Phillips Tuesday.
When considering laws, “the important thing is what impact it has on the consumer,” said Phillips. “We need to continue to guard like a hawk against conduct and against laws that have the effect of raising prices for consumers.”
Current record highs in the inflation rate, which means money is becoming less valuable as products become more expensive, has meant Washington must become sensitive to further price increases that could come out of such antitrust legislation, the commissioner said.
Phillips did not comment on how such movies would mean higher prices, but that signals, such as theHouse Judiciary Committee’s antitrust report two years ago, that reign in Big Tech companies and bring back enforcement of laws could mean higher prices. He raised concerns that recent policies are prohibiting competition rather than facilitating it.
This follows recent concerns that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, currently awaiting Senate floor consideration, will inhibit America’s global competitiveness by weakening major American companies, thus impairing the American economy. That legislation would prohibit platform owners from giving preference to their products against third-party products.
This act is one of many currently under consideration at Congress, including Ending Platform Monopolies Act and Platform Competition and Opportunity Act.
Small businesses have worried that by enacting some legislation targeting Big Tech, they would be impacted because they rely on such platforms for success.
Critics and Supporters Trade Views on American Innovation and Choice Online Act
American Innovation and Choice Online Act is intended to protect fair competition among businesses, but panelists differed on its impact.
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2022 – Experts differed on the effect that antitrust legislation targeting big tech companies allegedly engaging in discriminatory behavior would have on small businesses.
Small businesses “want Congress not to do anything that will screw up or weaken the services that they rely on for their business,” said Michael Petricone, senior vice present of the Consumer Technology Association, at a Protocol Live event on Thursday.
Petricone said that antitrust bill would encourage tech companies to relocate to other countries, harming the American economy. He said small businesses would be affected the most.
Instead, Petricone called for a “smarter immigration policy” to allow foreign innovators access to American tech market, as well as the defeat of the antitrust legislation.
But other said that small businesses suffer from predatory behavior by big tech companies. “Companies can’t get their foot in the door when there is already self-preferencing,” said Awesta Sarkash, representative for Small Business Majority, an advocacy organization, adding that 80% of small businesses say they want antitrust laws to protect them.
Self-preferencing on online platforms is detrimental to the success of small businesses who rely on social media advertising for business, she said. The new antitrust proposals would ensure an level playing field and promote fair competition, she said.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would prohibit certain online platforms from unfairly preferencing products, limiting another business’ ability to operate on a platform, or discriminating against competing products and services.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, was introduced to the Senate on May 2 and is awaiting Senate floor consideration.
The debate follows concerns raised by both democrats and republicans about America’s global competitiveness as the bill would weaken major American companies.
If passed, the bill will follow the European Union’s Digital Services Act which similarly sets accountability standards for online platforms, preventing potentially harmful content and behavior.
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