scorecardCongress unveils 5 bipartisan bills that mark its biggest step yet in regulating tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple
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Congress unveils 5 bipartisan bills that mark its biggest step yet in regulating tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple

Katie Canales   

Congress unveils 5 bipartisan bills that mark its biggest step yet in regulating tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple
Tech3 min read
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Washington DC on Oct. 23, 2019.    Andrew Harnik/AP
  • House lawmakers unveiled the bills to reel in tech companies' power over the online market.
  • The "Big Four" have faced mounting scrutiny from Congress over antitrust concerns in recent years.
  • This new legislation would be a significant step toward loosening tech's power.

House lawmakers on Friday unveiled five bills designed to rein in big tech companies and loosen their hold on digital industries.

The legislation is specifically directed at Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook, which have all faced increased scrutiny over antitrust concerns in recent years. The bills have some bipartisan support and would equip regulators with more power to control tech firms from holding too much market dominance, their sponsors said.

"Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy," Rep. David Cicilline, the House's antitrust subcommittee chairman, said in a press release. "They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work."

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

The five bills are described below:

  • The "American Innovation and Choice Online Act" would prohibit companies from discriminating against smaller competitors and prioritizing their products ahead of others.
  • The "Platform Competition and Opportunity Act" would empower regulators to block dominant companies from acquiring would-be competitors.
  • The "Ending Platform Monopolies Act" would prohibit companies from stomping out smaller competitors and undermining fair and free online competition.
  • The "Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act" would make it easier for new companies to enter the market by changing requirements that affect costs for businesses.
  • The "Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act" would update filing fees for mergers "for the first time in two decades," according to the press release, so that regulators could better enforce antitrust laws.

This new legislation would mark an important milestone in establishing regulations for the booming and historically unregulated tech industry.

Congress has cracked down hard on Big Tech recently, particularly in 2019 and 2020, when it conducted a months-long investigation into the companies over online competition.

Each company was being investigated for a different reason: Google for its dominance in online ads and search, Apple over its App Store policies, Amazon over its treatment of third-party sellers, and Facebook over its acquisitions of would-be competitors like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Giphy.

The CEOs of the "Big Four" testified together for the first time before Congress in July as part of the investigation.

House lawmakers released a report after their investigation that said the firms had turned into "the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons."

The four companies are also facing antitrust lawsuits from state attorneys general and other government agencies. Amazon last month was slapped with a suit from Washington, DC, Attorney General Karl Racine, who accused the company of abusing its power by requiring its third-party sellers to agree not to offer their products for a lower price on other websites.

And Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against Google on Tuesday, accusing the company of prioritizing its products, like Google Flights, ahead of competitors like Orbitz or Travelocity.

Tech regulation is largely a bipartisan issue

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle agree that the industry needs oversight. But they have different reasons.

Many Republicans have held the belief that internet platforms discriminate against conservative users and serve a liberal agenda. They have pointed to examples such as Twitter flagging President Donald Trump's posts in May 2020 about the legitimacy of mail-in voting for the presidential election. Another example they use to support their belief is Twitter blocking the URL of a New York Post story about President Joe Biden's son.

In the Friday press release announcing the antitrust bills, Republican Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas said: "Big tech has routinely suppressed conservative voices and violated consumers' privacy. We must rein in their destructive behavior and preserve the constitutional rights of all Americans."

Apple also pulled Parler from its App Store after the January 6 insurrection because it said the platform wasn't cracking down enough on violent posts.

But while some Republicans say social-media companies "censor" content too much, many Democratic lawmakers say platforms don't do enough to police disinformation and hate speech.