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Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Tech Beats Antitrust Push

 Emily Birnbaum at Bloomberg:

A passionate and bipartisan legislative effort to rein in the country’s largest technology companies collapsed this week, the victim of an epic lobbying campaign by Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta.

The internet titans spent hundreds of millions of dollars, sent their chief executives to Washington and deployed trade groups and sympathetic scholars to quash two antitrust bills co-sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. The companies treated the bills like an existential threat.The years-long US legislative effort, which harnessed outrage over tech companies’ power and dominance, would have cracked down on the practices of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Inc, Meta Platforms Inc. and Apple Inc. for the first time in the nearly three decades since the internet was unveiled to the public.

The closely-watched bills advanced farther than any other antitrust overhaul in decades and emerged from an 18-month House investigation led by Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would have prevented the tech giants from using their platforms to disadvantage competitors, while the Open App Markets Act would have pared back Apple and Google’s control over app stores.Despite an aggressive eleventh-hour push, the bills were not included in the end-of-year spending package released Monday, the final shot this year. The Senate included a narrower trio of antitrust bills in the end-of-year spending package. That legislation will give more money and resources to the country’s top antitrust regulators, marking the first time Congress has voted to expand antitrust enforcement measures in decades. But those provisions will not make the sweeping changes to the law that some advocates hoped for.