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New federal antitrust legislation puts Amazon, Big Tech on notice and on target

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New federal antitrust legislation puts Amazon, Big Tech on notice and on target
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and last year’s report from the antitrust subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee (Photo illustration by GeekWire)

Federal lawmakers on Friday introduced a wave of legislation that collectively seeks to change the way big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook do business and dominate their respective markets.

The five bills would create a frame dismantle large technology companies into smaller ones (Amazon and Amazon Web Services, for example); make mergers more expansive and difficult; to divide businesses that use their domain in one area to become a bulwark in another; and stop companies creating supposedly open markets and only playing favor with their own products.

The radical package of House Democrats and Republicans comes after months of study and congressional consultations on the enormous power and financial reach of big tech and existing regulation to restrict it. As the New York Times noted, “Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have a combined market capitalization of 6.3 trillion dollars, four times the value of the 10 largest banks in the country.”

A data portability bill, perhaps the least controversial of the bunch, would require companies to allow users to switch platforms more easily by allowing data to migrate from one platform to another. All measures have varying amounts of bipartisan support.

Margaret O’Mara, professor of history at the University of Washington who has written extensively on the history of the tech industrySuch regulation of these companies is one of the few areas of mutual political interest.

“At a time when Washington DC is so divided, Republicans and Democrats are so far apart, the power of technology companies is one of the things where both sides find common ground,” he said.

That common interest, he said, isn’t always bad for the tech industry.

The Senate recently passed the Bipartisan Endless Frontier Act that, if approved by the House, it would invest nearly $ 250 billion promoting specific emerging technologies in the US that China seeks to master, including quantum computing, artificial intelligence and robotics, among other things.

Friday’s legislative package is based on House antitrust hearings over the past 16 months. If approved by Congress and signed by the president, the bills would be the most important revision of competition laws dating back to what is known as “Golden age“Of the railroad, oil and steel magnates and their monopolies in the early 20th century.

O’Mara said the country has changed the golden age for the technological age. And like the first, people should expect some change in the most powerful companies. The bipartisan nature of the technology regulation package, he said, means that “something will come out of this. We just don’t know what yet. “

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