Technology

House advances five bills targeting Big Tech after overnight slugfest

The House Judiciary Committee advanced five antitrust bills targeting the biggest tech companies in the country during a markup that stretched into the early hours Thursday morning. 

Although the bills had bipartisan support, they also drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans, highlighting the uphill battle they’ll face as they head to a full floor vote.

Before adjourning Thursday morning, the committee voted to advance one of the most controversial measures, which aims to prohibit dominant platforms from self-preferring their own products and services. 

The committee also voted to advance a bill that would prohibit tech giants from acquiring competitors.

The proposal comes as Facebook is facing a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general nationwide on its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, which the social media platform has defended against allegations of anti-competitiveness.

After contentious debate over a proposal aimed at requiring interoperability and data portability requirements, the bill, known as the Access Act, advanced. 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle took aim at the bill’s scope, which many Republicans argued could keep Microsoft out of its requirements. California Democrats Zoe Lofgren and Eric Swalwell voiced concerns over user data and security. 

Antitrust subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) both strongly pushed back on lawmakers arguing the proposal was being pushed forward too quickly, noting the 16-month investigation from the subcommittee last year into the companies’ market power. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who serves a district she said is full of Amazon and Microsoft employees, also argued that the definition of a covered platform in the bills would not leave Microsoft out. 

Cicilline said the determination of which platforms would be covered would be up to the enforcement agencies. 

The least contentious of the bills, one ensuring state attorneys general are able to remain in the court they select and one that would update filing fees for mergers, passed earlier in the day. 

The meeting, which began Wednesday at 10 a.m., was adjourned early Thursday morning, and the committee is slated to return at 11 a.m. for members to mark up the remaining bills in the agenda.

Those measures are also highly controversial and have drawn a fierce push back from tech companies, as they could make it easier for enforcement agencies to break up tech giants.

Tags antitrust Apple Big tech David Cicilline Eric Swalwell Matt Gaetz Microsoft Pramila Jayapal Zoe Lofgren
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