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6 bills to rein in Big Tech firms hurtle forward in US Congress

Six bills taking aim at the Big Tech market power are hurtling forward in the US Congress with bipartisan support even as a House panel has pushed forward an ambitious legislative package that seeks to rein in Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple by targeting their ownership of mighty online platforms in combination with other lines of business that kill competition.

Updated Jun 25, 2021 02:57 AM

6 bills to rein in Big Tech firms hurtle forward in US Congress

The bills moved forward after a 12-hour all nighter debate, especially over features which would require online platforms to allow users to communicate across competitor services.

Lawmakers closed shop at 5 a.m. on Thursday on the East Coast.

Supporters of the bills argue that the proposed changes will hand consumers power over how their personal data is extracted and juiced by businesses which rely on these data to drive their predictive models and profits.

"With this package of historic legislation, we have the opportunity to take control of our own destiny to be a global leader in developing rules of the road for the digital economy," Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler said.

"We cannot be complacent and we cannot delay."

These developments come barely a week after President Joe Biden appointed strident Big Tech critic Lina Khan to head the Federal Trade Commission in a sign of a tougher stance against technology companies which have seeped into society in remarkable ways.

Khan played a crucial role in the sweeping, 15-month long investigation of the tech giants' market power.

Listed below are the six bills that now enter what is likely to be a long slog through Congress:

The Access Act, which came in for maximum debate, details a new framework for data portability and interoperability.

The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act gives the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission more money to take on antitrust cases against tech companies. It increases filing fees for tech mergers above $500 million and lowers fees for those under that level. The legislation passed 29-12.

The State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act was approved 34-7 and heads to the House floor for a final vote. If it passes, it would give states greater powers in deciding the courts where tech antitrust cases would be heard. Plenty of so-called atechlash' cases have piled up, especially over the last year with state attorneys general, the US Justice Department and the FTC suing dominant US technology companies.

The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act would prevent large tech platforms from buying up early stage competitors, like the Facebook buyout of Instagram in 2012.

The Ending Platform Monopolies Act would force large tech companies to sever lines of business that conflict with one another and hurt competitors.

The American Choice and Innovation Act seeks to stop companies like Google or Amazon from giving preference to their products on their own platforms.

If these bills gain momentum, the US could see landmark changes in the tech industry.

For now, they are headed to the House floor, where more than 400 lawmakers will vote. Next stop is the Senate, where Democrats will need solid Republican support to break through a 60 vote barrier.

Democrats control the House, but the Senate is a 50-50 split.

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