The Wall Street Journal reports that House Democrats are planning to issue recommendations to rein in some of the biggest companies in the world, including Google, Facebook, and Apple. These could include breaking up the companies’ online platforms — and may possibly set the stage for action if the party wins the presidency and Senate in November.
For more than a year, the House Antitrust Subcommittee has been investigating the companies for engaging in possibly anticompetitive activities. This includes Amazon offering its own products that compete with those of third-party sellers, and Google promoting its own offerings on its dominant search engine. When four of the most powerful tech CEOs testified before Congress in July — representing Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Google — they strenuously defended their business practices, claiming that customers had plenty of choices online regardless of their market positions.
But Rhode Island representative David Cicilline, who runs the House Antitrust Subcommittee, was not convinced. His report is likely to recommend steps that would reduce the dominance of the companies, which may include forcing the businesses to separate their profit-making businesses from the platforms on which they promote competitors as well as increasing funding for antitrust enforcement.
The issue didn’t even come up at Tuesday night’s presidential debate, but if Democrats take the Senate in November, the party could make good on its increasingly aggressive posture toward big tech — following the lead of European governments, many of which have been more adversarial in their dealings with technology giants than the United States has. Republicans, while often acknowledging that companies like Facebook are too powerful, have generally taken a more laissez-faire approach, though some, like Senator Josh Hawley, advocate much more aggressive tactics. (The Trump administration’s Department of Justice has opened an antitrust investigation into Google, but seems more focused on platforms’ supposed bias against conservatives than they are on on breaking up monopolies.)
Antitrust fervor has swept through the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in recent years, as big tech, once generally viewed as a mostly benign force by the party, has grown increasingly powerful and burrowed into the lives of almost all Americans. As with many issues that animate the left, though, Joe Biden has taken a moderate approach, making clear that he is not in favor of breaking up large companies — at least not yet.