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House to Hold Multiple Big Tech Antitrust Hearing

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Gary Arlen)

The House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee plans to hold a series of hearings on proposed bills to reign in "the rise and abuse of market power online" and adjust antitrust laws accordingly.

Both Republicans and Democrats have concerns that antitrust laws were not nimble enough to capture Web giants' efforts to buy up start-up competitors before they became full-fledge competition and, importantly for antitrust law, before they triggered Hart Scott Rodino automatic antitrust reviews.

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The first hearing,  “Reviving Competition, Part 1: Proposals to Address Gatekeeper Power and Lower Barriers to Entry Online," is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 10 a.m.

The hearings will focus on:

1. "Addressing the rise, entrenchment, and abuse of gatekeeper power; lowering barriers to entry; and ensuring the survival of trustworthy sources of news online;"

2. "Modernizing and strengthening the tools available to police illegal mergers and monopolization, as well as other anticompetitive conduct; and

3. "Other improvements to the antitrust laws, current enforcement levels, and congressional oversight as identified by the Majority Staff Report and Recommendations."

It follows a more than year-long investigation by the subcommittee into the state of online competition, including collecting 1.3 million internal documents and resulted in a 450-page report, according to the committee.

Also Read:FTC, DOJ Big Tech Investigations Suffer Overlap Issues

Among the suggestive legislative fixes are modifying or eliminating Web sites' Sec. 230 immunity from legal liablity for third-party online speech, presumptively prohibiting mergers between market-dominant companies and others--forcing Big Tech to defend their purchases--and allowing news outlets to negotiate collectively for payment for Big Tech's use of their news and information (https://www.tvtechnology.com/news/congress-preps-bill-to-support-smaller-news-orgs-against-big-tech. 

“I am proud of the bipartisan work we have been able to accomplish this far and I look forward to working with Chairman [David] Cicilline [D-R.I.] and the members of the subcommittee in this series of hearings," said ranking member Ken Buck (R-Colo.). "As I outlined in the Third Way report [the minority report on the Big Tech antitrust investigation], there are several areas of bipartisan agreement and I believe we will be able to accomplish some important antitrust reforms.”