Progressives’ Anti-Merger Bill, New Facebook Parental Controls, Verizon Helps Defense Department

A bill from progressives to ease merger break-ups may face a treacherous path in Congress.

Progressives’ Anti-Merger Bill, New Facebook Parental Controls, Verizon Helps Defense Department
Photo of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., from April 2019 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

March 18, 2022 – On Wednesday Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., introduced a bill that would allow the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to reject large merger deals without a court order.

The bill, backed by many progressive in both chambers of Congress, may face the same obstacles to getting passed that other antitrust bills to advance out of committee have this session, as no Republicans sponsor the bill as of present nor do Senate and House antitrust panel chairs Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.

Under the proposed law, the government would also be able to retroactively break up deals that result in a market share above 50% or that are considered to “materially harm” competition, workers, consumers, or small or minority-owned businesses.

The definition of a “prohibited merger” would include deals which are valued at more than $5 billion, result in market shares of more than 33% for sellers or 25% for employers, or result in highly concentrated markets under the 1992 agency guidelines.

Several advocacy groups pursuing antitrust reform have expressed support for the bill.

Meta rolls out new parental controls for Instagram and virtual reality

Facebook parent company Meta said Wednesday that it would release new features designed to give parents and guardians more control over their teenagers’ use of social media and virtual reality.

The changes come as the company continues to face criticism that it endangers young people by showcasing content on suicide and eating disorders, as exposed through whistleblower reports and congressional testimony.

In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden urged Congress to ban targeted advertising to children and demand that tech companies stop collecting the personal data of child users.

Notably on Meta’s Instagram, parents will be able to view the amount of time their teens spend on the app and set time limits for use in a new “Family Center,” as well as get updates on what accounts they follow and what accounts follow them.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., was unimpressed with the changes, saying the changes were “too little, too late” and emphasizing the need for his Kids Online Safety Act accountability bill.

With Meta’s developing foray into virtual reality, it has also said it will block children from purchasing age-inappropriate VR apps and allow parents to see all the apps their teens own.

DoD enlists Verizon for upgrades to defense networks

In a recently announced deal worth $966.5 million Verizon will upgrade network infrastructure and services at the Pentagon, National Capital Region and Fort Belvoir.

Secured through the government’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions technology procurement program, the deal is one of the biggest Verizon has obtained through the program.

The Pentagon’s contract with Verizon is the largest of the three, valued at $515.3 million and funding transitions from copper-based communications technology to IP-based services. Services will also include support for the Department of Defense in planning, designing and implementing network upgrades and deploying new equipment at the Pentagon.

Verizon had previously entered into a $495 million contract with DoD to deploy switches, routers, firewalls, edge computing capabilities and managed services to support research and computing facilities.

Additionally through the EIS program, the provider last year negotiated five contracts with the Department of Labor totaling $887 million.