Bipartisan U.S. Lawmakers Push Five Antitrust Bills Targeted at Tech Companies

Cecilia Kang, New York Times:

The bills — five in total — take direct aim at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and their grip on online commerce, information and entertainment. The proposals would make it easier to break up businesses that used their dominance in one area to get a stronghold in another, would create new hurdles for acquisitions of nascent rivals and would empower regulators with more funds to police companies.

The legislation could reshape the way the companies operate. Facebook and Google, for instance, could have a higher bar to prove that any mergers aren’t anticompetitive. Amazon could face more scrutiny when selling its own branded products like toilet paper and clothing. Apple could have a harder time entering new lines of business that are promoted on its App Store.

A tech industry lobbying group is simultaneously seeking to minimize what lawmakers are confronting — “[w]ith all the challenges facing our country […] some policymakers think our biggest problem worth fixing is… Amazon Basics batteries” — and exaggerate how debilitating it would be to people. Heck of a time to introduce this legislation during the same week Apple has spent telling the world how great it is that all of its platforms are so tightly integrated with unique cross-device features that it can only do because it controls the hardware, software, and services stack.

I am dying to know why tech companies have spent the past decade becoming more siloed, entrenched, and unwavering in their taunting of antitrust action instead of pulling back just a touch. Of course, I wrote that and then immediately remembered that the two biggest spenders on lobbying in the U.S. are Amazon and Facebook, so it seems unlikely that all of these bills will become law as-is. Meanwhile, Axios reports that it is Rupert Murdoch’s companies that you can thank for the Republican support of this legislation; incidentally, Murdoch also pushed for Australia’s new media law.