The head of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee made it clear at its hearing Thursday on Big Tech "gatekeeper" platforms and antitrust that it was the launch of a congressional effort to reign in the largest platforms. "Mark my words: Change is coming, laws are coming," said Subcommittee Chairman David Cicciline (D-R.I.).
In his opening statement, Cicciline said that without competition, Facebook and other dominant platforms have no incentive to change. He called that problem a "cancer" that is metastasizing across our economy and our country."
He said Americans "have had enough" and that Republicans and Democrats agree, overwhelmingly, that Big Tech companies have too much power and that Congress must curb that. "Today's hearing begins the process of doing just that," he said.
He pointed out that the market cap of Amazon alone exceeds that of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson combined.
The fact that Big Tech is "virtually unbound by law and regulation" is coming to an end, he promised. "It must end."
The hearing builds on the subcommittee's investigation last Congress into Big Tech and antitrust, particularly whether Big Tech got so big in part because antitrust law couldn't capture the strategy of buying startups before they got big enough so that the purchases would trigger antitrust reviews.
He said there would be a series of hearings on ways to adjust those laws and insuring the survival of trusted forms of news--the issue of Web sites aggregating news without sufficiently compensating news outlets.
He said his goal was bipartisan legislation.
Among the suggested 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.
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