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U.S. lawmakers introduce five bills aimed at breaking down big tech

Congress
Congress (Image credit: Louis Velazquez)

What you need to know

  • House lawmakers have introduced five new bills aimed at big tech.
  • The bills aim to curtail the market dominance enjoyed by major tech firms.

The age of big tech going around unchecked might actually be over in the United States...if the bills introduced today get enough traction.

As reported by The Verge, the five bipartisan bills aim to curb the market dominance that some major tech firms have enjoyed for years now. One of the bills could give the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission the power to require tech companies to break off parts of their business that create a conflict of interest (think the App Store or Amazon Basics). Another bill would prevent acquisitions like when Facebook gobbled up Instagram back in 2012.

The package unveiled Friday includes five measures targeting the different ways in which tech companies maintain market dominance. One bill would empower the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission to break up tech firms by forcing them to sell off parts of their business that could create a conflict of interest — potentially forcing Amazon to carve off house brands like Amazon Basics.Another bill would bar companies from giving their own services preference over their rivals, like Google boosting its own products in search results over competitors. Yet another bill would block companies like Facebook from buying up nascent competitors like in the 2012 acquisition of Instagram.The last two bills are less controversial. Last week, the Senate already passed a measure put out by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that would boost merger filing fees for large companies, giving antitrust enforcers more money to take on cases. A bill mirroring that legislation was introduced Wednesday. The last bill would force platforms to make the data they collect interoperable in order to make it easier for users to jump from one service to another.

Representative David Cicilline, who oversaw the House antitrust investigation, says that all of the bills aim to "level the playing field" so that the big tech firms are forced to compete fairly with smaller companies.

"Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy. They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work ... Our agenda will level the playing field and ensure the wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us."

It's currently unclear when the bills will be heard in Congress or when they could be passed into law.

Joe Wituschek
Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.

2 Comments
  • "Another bill would bar companies from giving their own services preference over their rivals." This would also bar Apple from bundling up all of their apps or services at discounted prices as well, especially since Apple pays no fees for any of their apps, or services. Yet other companies even if they tried to offer bundles with multiple services and/or products. No one can compete with Apple, because Apple still requires fees from other bundled apps or services. Its so unfair, that I was surprised that Apple was even allowed to do that in the first place.
  • Apple needs to modify its App Store policies, but these bills go to far. They’d prevent Apple from offering any first-party apps whatsoever—effectively forcing Apple to sell iPhones with zero apps and zero integrated experiences. The iPhone has a 95%+ customer satisfaction rating, and normal people who don’t visit sites like iMore like uncomplicated experiences with their smartphone that work out of the box. I bet Apple would rather sink the App Store and force developers to offer their apps via Safari PWAs than ship an iPhone with no first-party experiences.