US lawmakers introduce bills targeting Big Tech

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US lawmakers have introduced five bills aimed at liming the power held by Big Tech companies.

The bills were drafted after a 16-month investigation into the powers of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook.

They address topics including data, mergers, and the competitive behaviour of these companies – which could ultimately lead to them being forced to sell some assets.

But there is not unanimous support for the bills targeting Big Tech.

"Bills that target specific companies, instead of focusing on business practices, are simply bad policy… and could be ruled unconstitutional," Neil Bradley from the US Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

The bills will be referred to the House Judiciary Committee before being sent to the House floor.

To become law, they must pass through the House of Representatives, the Senate and, finally, be signed by President Joe Biden.

The bills

David Cicilline, the co-sponsor of the bills and Democratic chair of the Antitrust panel, tweeted a breakdown of the bills which, he says, will, "strengthen our laws to hold tech monopolies accountable, and build #AStrongerOnlineEconomy".

The bills, which have received backing from Democrats and Republicans, are:

  • The American Choice and Innovation Online Act – this bill prevents companies from manipulating marketplaces to promote their own products
  • The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act of 2021 – this bill makes it harder for companies to buy and kill off competitors
  • The Ending Platform Monopolies Act – this bill prohibits Big Tech monopolies from selling products in marketplaces they control
  • The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act of 2021 – this bill makes it easier to leave a social media platform and take your data to a competitor
  • The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2021 – this bill allows the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission the resources they need to police monopoly power, at no cost to taxpayers

"Big Tech's unchecked growth and dominance have led to incredible abuses of power that have hurt consumers, workers, small businesses and innovation," said Robert Weisman, president of the advocacy group Public Citizen.

"That unchecked power ends now."

Anti-trust and anti-competitive behaviour

US tech companies have faced increased scrutiny in Washington over their size and power in recent years.

media captionWATCH: Who are the 'big four' and just how much power do they have?

"From Amazon and Facebook to Google and Apple, it is clear that these unregulated tech giants have become too big to care," said Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic Representative and bill sponsor.

A 16-month investigation by the Antitrust Subcommittee led to a 449-page report accusing the companies of charging high fees, forcing smaller customers into unfavourable contracts and of using "killer acquisitions" to hobble rivals.

Many of these accusations form the basis for the proposed bills.

Some of the companies have also been hit with various lawsuits claiming they have violated competition law and allege anti-competitive behaviour.

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