But partisan disagreements over next steps may blunt the report’s immediate impact, despite a widespread desire to rein in Silicon Valley titans among both conservative and liberal lawmakers. Several of the committee’s Republicans, led by Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, endorsed some Democrat-backed proposals in a separate report unveiled Tuesday while warning that the majority’s more aggressive recommendations are “non-starters for conservatives.”
The investigation: The subcommittee issued Tuesday’s recommendations in a report that assailed the business practices of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies, who lawmakers said have unfairly stifled competitors to the detriment of consumers. As part of the probe, lawmakers and staff have collected over a million documents, interviewed hundreds of witnesses and hauled in the companies’ CEOs to testify this summer.
Among other allegations, the panel investigated complaints that tech titans have trampled competitors by acquiring up-and-coming rivals and favoring their own products on the online storefronts they operate, such as Amazon’s Marketplace and Apple’s App Store.
“To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons,” Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and subcommittee Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said in the report. “Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price.”
The proposals: The report calls for an array of changes, some of which boast bipartisan support while others have only Democratic backing.
Among them are Democratic proposals to ban major tech platforms from acquiring future startups or potential rivals and barring them from both owning marketplaces — such as Amazon’s sprawling e-commerce hub — and selling competing products on them.
The report also calls on Congress to grant federal antitrust enforcers new resources to police possible abuses by the major firms, despite decades of “institutional failure” where the agencies “failed to block monopolists from establishing or maintaining their dominance.” Recommendation include increasing budgets, allowing the Federal Trade Commission to seek civil penalties for violations and imposing stricter prohibitions on senior staff from the agencies doing work for the companies after their tenure.
Democratic subcommittee member Pramila Jayapal of Washington state said Tuesday that she expects lawmakers will quickly look to turn the policy recommendations into actionable legislation once Congress returns in 2021 — if not sooner.
“I do hope that we will have legislation introduced early in the session and we can ideally in a year move significant pieces of legislation,” she said in an interview.
Where the parties differ: Republican lawmakers said in a separate report Tuesday that they support boosting funding and staffing levels for regulators and some more modest proposals to change U.S. antitrust laws, but they balked at Democrats’ more aggressive proposals. They include what Cicilline has described as a Glass-Steagall law for technology platforms, a reference to the Depression-era law that split up commercial and investment