US Senator Proposes Ban on Big Tech Acquisitions

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Big Five companies. Big Tech company logos: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft on a screen and a silhouette of hand. Not a montage. Digital tax, antitrust. Stafford, UK - February 12 2020.
The bill would prevent Big Tech companies from buying smaller companies.

US Senator Josh Hawley, a known critic of Big Tech, has unveiled a new antitrust bill that would prevent acquisitions and mergers by companies with a market value greater than $100 billion. The bill would affect companies including Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft. 

 

The Republican senator of Missouri referenced alleged anti-conservative bias by Big Tech as one reason for the Trust-Busting For the Twenty-First Century Act. Hawley is one of several Republican lawmakers that has clashed with Facebook and Twitter over a supposed anti-conservative bias. The social networks continue to deny such allegations. 

 

“A small group of woke mega-corporations control the products Americans can buy, the information Americans can receive and the speech Americans can engage in,” Hawley said in a statement . “These monopoly powers control our speech, our economy, our country and their control has only grown because Washington has aided and abetted their quest for endless power.”

 

Tech giants including Facebook and Google have come under scrutiny over their massive market control. Legislators and regulators alike are concerned about how these monopolies may harm consumers. In particular, small companies can’t gain a foothold in the industry. Google is currently facing three antitrust suits, while two complaints were filed against Facebook in an attempt to separate Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. 

 

The bill would reform the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts, establishing that evidence of anticompetitive conduct is enough to bring an antitrust claim against a company. This change makes it easier for federal regulators to attempt to split monopolistic companies. 

 

Hawley also argued that antitrust claims should be pursued without starting a debate over the definition of a specific market. The senator referenced Facebook acquiring Instagram as an example of a justified antitrust action that shouldn’t be marred by people debating the specifics of the “social media market.” Hawley also cited Amazon and Google when talking about what activities the bill would ban. 

 

The bill would enable the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to label companies gaining too much market control as being “digital dominant firms” that can no longer acquire potential competitors. These companies are also prohibited from prioritizing their own search results without disclosing this information. 

 

Hawley also called out banking and pharmaceutical companies in his press release, saying that acquisitions and mergers in the industry have “gobbled up our freedom and competition.” The bill would also require companies that lose federal antitrust lawsuits to forfeit their profits from the monopolistic market. 

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