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Biden appoints tech critic to competition policy role

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A notable critic of the biggest tech companies, Columbia University Law School professor Tim Wu, is joining the Biden administration in a role focused on addressing the market power of the tech giants.

The White House on Friday announced Wu’s appointment as special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy.

“Happy to say I’m joining the Biden White House to work on Technology and Competition Policy at the National Economic Council,” Wu tweeted.

Wu previously served as senior enforcement counsel to the New York attorney general, senior adviser at the Federal Trade Commission, and as an adviser at the National Economic Council.

He’s the author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age,” which calls out the concentration of power in the tech industry.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) touted Wu’s appointment as a signal that the Biden administration is “serious about promoting technology in the U.S.”

“He has been a leading thinker on technology and competition policy issues, from his work on net neutrality to his recent scholarship on the monopoly power crisis. I look forward to working with Tim to modernize antitrust enforcement, strengthen our economy, and protect workers and consumers,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wu’s hiring is a “reflection of his expertise,” but noted that his position on antitrust matters as it relates to the tech giants will not solely guide President Biden’s agenda.

“If the administration policy was determined by every person who was hired, we’d have 400 different policies on each issue. The president welcomes expertise, he welcomes experience, and Tim certainly brings that in droves,” Psaki said at a press briefing Friday. 

Pressed on whether Biden will pursue a policy to break up big tech companies, Psaki said the administration doesn’t have a new policy to announce on that front.

“The president believes, as he has talked about before, that it’s important to promote competition and address monopoly and market power issues. But we don’t have new policy to announce. We are six weeks into a new administration, but certainly we welcome the expertise of individuals like Tim Wu,” Psaki said. 

Aurelien Portuese, the director of antitrust and innovation policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said there are some risks to Wu’s appointment.

Portuese said the position at the White House may intrude on the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s “collaborative work.” Additionally, Portuese said Wu’s “anti-bigness” stance may pose a risk to American innovation.

“Fighting bigness irrespective of innovation incentives may harm American competitiveness. These two risks may however not materialize thanks to a more moderate, innovation-based perspective on competition matters,” Portuese said in a statement.

The four biggest tech companies, Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon, have faced mounting scrutiny over their market power in recent years.

The House Judiciary panel on antitrust released a scathing report in October accusing the companies of stifling competition. The subcommittee has launched a series of hearings aimed at weighing proposals to address what it sees as an abuse of online market power.

The Federal Trade Commission and nearly every state in the country sued Facebook at the end of last year, accusing the social media giant of anticompetitive acquisitions. 

Google is also facing antitrust lawsuits from the Department of Justice, as well as a group of bipartisan state attorneys general.

Biden has yet to name nominees to other key positions that will impact the industry, including who will lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division and the Federal Trade Commission.

Updated at 2:08 p.m.

Tags Amazon Amy Klobuchar Apple Biden Big tech Competition law Facebook Google Jen Psaki Joe Biden Tim Wu United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division
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