Monday, January 17

Democrats and Republicans are tussling over whether big tech should be broken up, according to a leaked GOP memo

  • A House of Representatives subcommittee on antitrust is getting ready to publish a report on Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google following a year-long investigation.
  • It looks like Democrat and Republican lawmakers are still tussling about how hard to hit Big Tech firms.
  • According to a leaked memo from Republican member Ken Buck, draft recommendations include banning tech giants from scooping up small rival start-ups, and splitting big tech companies up so they can’t compete on the same marketplaces which they operate.
  • Republicans are pushing back against the bolder legislative suggestions such as breaking up firms.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Democrat and Republican lawmakers are tussling over how hard to hit Big Tech with new measures intended to curb their power.

The Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law — which is majority Democrat — has been investigating the market power of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google since June 2019 and is getting ready to publish a final report of legislative recommendations.

A leaked memo by obtained by Politico and Bloomberg written by Republican Rep. Ken Buck indicates some pushback from Republicans on the committee’s draft recommendations.

Buck wrote that some of the recommendations, such as breaking up companies, are too sweeping and “non-starters for conservatives.”

Per Buck’s memo, measures proposed by the Democrats specifically include:

  • A ban on certain kinds of mergers including the acquisition of smaller rival start-ups by big tech companies.
  • The elimination of arbitration clauses exposing companies to higher risk of class-action lawsuits.
  • Breaking up tech giants so they cannot compete on marketplaces they also operate, for example Amazon could not sell its bespoke products on Amazon marketplace.

According to Bloomberg, subcommittee chair Rep. David Cicilline compared the proposed legislation for splitting up the tech platforms to Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that separated investment banking from retail banking.

Buck’s memo also claims the Democrats have not addressed Republican concerns that big tech platforms censor conservative voices.

United on Big Tech’s anticompetitive behavior

The memo did signal some areas of agreement between the Republican and Democrat members of the subcommittee.

“We agree that antitrust enforcement agencies need additional resources and tools to provide proper oversight,” Buck wrote in the memo, per Politico.

Buck also writes he agrees with his Democrat colleagues on legislation to “shift the burden of proof for companies pursuing mergers and acquisitions and empowering consumers to take control of their user data through data portability and interoperability standards.”

In a statement to Politico, Buck said: “I agree … that Big Tech has acted in an anticompetitive manner.

“The next phase is to start working on solutions. With a problem this significant, one shouldn’t be surprised that there is a variety of legislative solutions being offered.”

The subcommittee’s full report on antitrust and big tech had been expected as early as Tuesday, but that has now been delayed.

An anonymous subcommittee aide told Politico this was because Republican panel members offered to negotiate on elements of the report.

An unnamed Democratic source told CNBC the delay was specifically because the committee received new information about Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012, and Republican members wanted to have their input registered.

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