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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying at a congressional hearing

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the House Financial Services Committee on October 23, 2019 Washington, D.C. (Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

'America Has a Monopoly Problem': Coalition Backs Legislation to Break Up Big Tech

"Reining in these companies is an essential first step to reverse the damage of concentrated corporate power throughout our economy."

Julia Conley

Government watchdog Public Citizen led dozens of organizations on Thursday in calling on Congress to pass several pieces of legislation to rein in the power of powerful tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google—bills that represent the interests of a majority of Americans, polls show.
 
The groups—which also included Jobs With Justice, the Center for Popular Democracy, and New York Communities for Change—said congressional leaders should pass six bills that were  "carefully crafted to address the abusive practices of the Big Tech companies" following a two-year investigation by the House Judiciary Committee.

"There is a clear and compelling need for Congress and the antitrust enforcement agencies to take action that restores competition, improves innovation, and safeguards our democracy."
—House Judiciary Committee

 
After conducting 10 hearings and 240 interviews and pouring over 1.3 million documents, the committee compiled a 450-page report concluding that "Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook each possess significant market power over large swaths of our economy" and "that there is a clear and compelling need for Congress and the antitrust enforcement agencies to take action that restores competition, improves innovation, and safeguards our democracy."
 
"America has a monopoly problem," the groups said Thursday in their letter (pdf). "Reining in these companies is an essential first step to reverse the damage of concentrated corporate power throughout our economy."
 
The groups cited research (pdf) showing how Amazon now controls over 35% of e-commerce in the U.S.—forcing other sellers to rely on Amazon to reach their own customers and "laying waste to a once diverse marketplace"—and detailing Facebook and Google's attacks on the free press by diverting "ad revenue away from publishers and into their own pockets."
 
The companies also worsen wage stagnation by stifling competition, the groups said. In the case of Apple and several other tech firms, the companies required employees to sign "no poach" agreements guaranteeing they wouldn't work for competitors—leaving the workers with little leverage in negotiating their pay, as the companies didn't have to worry about them leaving for other large firms.
 
To "bring urgently needed change and accountability to these companies and an industry that most Americans agree is already doing great harm to our democracy," the groups said, Congress must pass:
 
  • The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (H.R. 3816), to promote innovation and competition by prohibiting dominant Big Tech platforms from anti-competitive discrimination;
  • The Ending Platform Monopolies Act (H.R. 3825), to give government enforcers the ability to break up or separate certain parts of the businesses that create conflicts of interest;
  • The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act (H.R. 3826), to prevent the most problematic mergers and acquisitions, such as those that include competitors, potential or nascent competitors, or will enhance or maintain the company's market power;
  • The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act (H.R. 3849), to require Big Tech platforms to allow users to take their data with them if they decide to leave;
  • The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act (H.R. 3843), to authorize much-needed funding for antitrust enforcement agencies; and
  • The State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act (H.R. 3460), to make it easier for state attorneys general to bring a federal antitrust suit rather than having a defendant seek to move a case to a more favorable venue.
"Americans support taking action against these companies," said the groups. "Recent polling found that 57% of Democrats and Republicans and 61% of Independents believe that Big Tech companies should be broken up."
 
"We are proud to support this important legislative package and encourage all members of Congress to vote for its swift passage," they added.

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