House passes reduced legislation to fight Big Tech dominance

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  • On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a significantly cut-back law aimed at controlling big tech companies by giving states more power in antitrust litigation and increasing resources for federal regulators.

The bipartisan bill, which passed by 242 votes to 184, paled in comparison to the more ambitious bills approved by key House and Senate committees aimed at curbing Meta, Google, Amazon and Apple. The proposal has been on the table for months, giving businesses time to actively lobby against it.

The more restrictive bill would give states an edge over corporations when choosing where courts will hear federal antitrust cases. It says it will avoid the “home court advantage” enjoyed by big tech companies in federal courts in Northern California, where the companies are based.

A number of Attorneys General have filed antitrust lawsuits against the industry, and many states have filed landmark lawsuits against Google and Meta (then called Facebook, respectively) in late 2020 with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

Under the law, companies seeking merger approval must disclose subsidies received from countries that they believe pose a strategic or economic risk to the United States, particularly China.

The measure also raises the filing fees companies pay to federal agencies for all proposed mergers worth $500 million or more, while lowering fees for small and medium-sized transactions. The goal is to increase the revenue of federal law enforcement efforts.

“We are in a moment of monopoly as a country,” said the congressman. Massachusetts Democrat Lori Trahan said before the vote: “Multi-billion dollar companies have grown into behemoths, eliminating real competition within the industry and using their advantage to hurt small businesses and consumers. It has been able to harm women, children and people of all ages without recourse. Amazon has used its advantage to copy competitors’ products and bankrupt small businesses.”

The Biden administration, which has pushed antitrust laws against big tech, approved the bill this week.

Even in its reduced form, the bill met with strong opposition from conservative Republicans who split from their fellow Republicans who supported the bill. Conservatives opposed the antitrust agency’s proposed revenue increases, arguing that the Biden FTC had brazenly gone too far. California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock described FTC Chairman Lena Khan as “a radical left trying to replace consumer choice with theirs.”

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