House Democrats Tackle Big Tech ‘Monopolies’

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    The House Judiciary Committee says Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are monopolies — but its new plan to rein in their power won’t change anything overnight. Instead, Democratic lawmakers propose to rewrite American antitrust law in order to restructure the U.S.’s most successful and powerful industry over time. From a report: The report is a long pass down the field of the tech industry’s unfolding conflicts. It could be game-changing — but it also might never get completed. The report, which runs more than 450 pages, proposes broad updates to antitrust law, including: limiting companies’ ability to compete unfairly against third parties on their own platforms by either requiring online marketplaces to be independently run businesses or establishing rules for how such marketplaces can be organized; blocking online platforms from giving themselves preferential treatment or playing favorites with other content providers; requiring social networks to be interoperable so that people can communicate across platforms and carry their data over from one platform to another; directing antitrust enforcers to assume that an acquisition by a dominant tech firm is anticompetitive unless proven otherwise; and allowing news publishers to team up to negotiate against tech platforms looking to carry their content. Committee investigators spent 16 months reviewing mountains of emails, memos and other evidence to reach these conclusions about the companies: Amazon: The internet retail giant achieved its dominant position in part through acquiring competitors; has a monopoly over and mistreats third-party sellers; and has created a conflict of interest through its double role as an operator of its marketplace and also a seller there. Apple: The report says Apple exerts monopoly power over software distribution to more than half the mobile devices in the U.S. It accuses the company of exploiting rivals by levying commissions and fees and copying apps, and says Apple gives preference to its own apps and services. Facebook: The social media network has monopoly power in the social networking space, the report finds, and takes a “copy, acquire, kill” approach to would-be rivals such as WhatsApp and Instagram, both of which it bought in the early 2010s. Google: The search engine has a monopoly in the general online search and search advertising markets, according to the report, maintaining its position through anticompetitive tactics such as undermining vertical search providers and acquiring rivals. “To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons,” write the authors of the report. The other side: The companies all deny that they hold monopoly positions or that their practices and acquisitions violate antitrust law, and argue that the tech industry remains healthily competitive. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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