US elected officials are working on antitrust and anti-tech laws

“Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are the gatekeepers of the online economy. They bury or buy their rivals, ”argued the elected Democrat, David Cicilline. (Photo: Getty images)

“America has had enough,” said Democrat David Cicilline Wednesday, during the examination by a parliamentary committee of a series of bills that pave the way for potential dismantling of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon , the famous GAFA.

“Is the future of our economy going to be defined by the success of the best companies with the best ideas, or just the biggest companies with the biggest lobbying budgets?” Asked Mr. Cicilline, president of the subcommittee on antitrust.

After years of reprimands and flicks, American elected officials want to bring out the heavy artillery against the tech giants.

If this reform came into force, it would be likely to transform the internet shaped by these large companies, today accused of abuse of a dominant position by many authorities.

Politicians seek to prevent the colossi of the West Coast from prioritizing their products or services, through their control over their platforms. And they would no longer have the right to acquire competitors.

“Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are the gatekeepers of the online economy. They bury or buy their rivals, ”argued David Cicilline. He notably cited the example of Facebook, suspected of having bought Instagram because the application risked overshadowing it.

“They abuse their monopoly situation with behaviors that harm consumers, competition, innovation and our democracy,” he said.

Another measure would impose the “portability” of data and the “interoperability” of services. Facebook users could then more easily leave the social network, taking their contacts and personal information with them.

Not so fast

Above all, these companies would no longer have the right to operate platforms for third-party companies while offering competing services.

A potential major blow to Apple and Amazon, which have been criticized for years for being both judges and parties respectively on the App Store (the iPhone manufacturer’s application store) and the online sales site. line.

“This would have significant negative effects for the hundreds of thousands of US SMEs that sell products through our store,” said Brian Huseman, a vice president of Amazon, in a statement Tuesday.

He also referred to the risk of price increases for consumers as a result of “lower competition”.

“The (judicial committee of the House of Representatives) is moving too quickly, unnecessarily, on these bills,” he continued, before encouraging David Cicilline to “slow down” to avoid “the unintended negative consequences”.

After years of European offensives, Washington has finally stepped in. Lawsuits have been launched in recent months, notably against Google and Facebook, for infringement of competition law.

President Joe Biden has appointed several anti-monopoly figures to major positions, including lawyer Lina Khan, recently confirmed as head of the US competition authority (FTC), who will receive more financial resources if the new laws are voted.

In the US Parliament, the bills are also supported by Republicans, a good omen for the vote in the House of Representatives. Their fate in the Senate is less guaranteed.

Scalpel or chainsaw

“This legislation reforms antitrust with a scalpel, not a chainsaw,” assured Kenneth Buck, an elected Republican of Colorado, who highlighted the supporters of the right Wednesday. “The almighty government created tech monopolies through its inaction on competition law. It is time to take them back in hand ”.

Nothing to worry about Wall Street for the moment. According to analyst Dan Ives, investors view this threat “with calm”, because politicians remain divided.

In addition, “without fundamental change in existing laws, the antitrust momentum will crash against a wall,” he said Tuesday in a note from his cabinet, Wedbush Securities.

Critics of these reforms say they fear some very popular services will disappear.

“As voters expect elected officials to deal with pressing issues for the country, it seems hard to believe that Congress is on the verge of banning Amazon Prime and Amazon Basics (subscriptions and products from the brand, Editor’s note), to ban the pre-installation of (Apple’s messaging systems) iMessage and FaceTime on iPhones and to ban Google from including Google Maps in its search results, ”13 professional organizations wrote on Monday. part financed by GAFA.

“We believe voters want Congress to fix what is broken, rather than smashing or banning what works well,” they added.

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