CEOs of big tech companies like Apple have been “allowed to do whatever they want,” Representative David Cicillin said in an interview on a series of antitrust bills targeting tech giants.
In early June, a series of five bills were introduced by US House lawmakers, seeking to introduce changes to antitrust law. The bills cover a range of topics that have received antitrust attention, including how Apple might leverage the App Store and even the apps it bundles with iPhones in iOS.
During a meeting for the New York Times’ The “Sway” Podcast Congressman David Cicillin (Dem-RI) described the objectives of each bill, as well as the reasons why the US government is preparing to make major changes to antitrust law. The bills are expected to begin consideration at the end of June.
“Congress really hasn’t done its job over the last decade or more in the area of competition,” Cicillin said. “There is no good explanation, other than I think what happened was that they were American companies considered to be great innovators who provided interesting goods and services. . And I think the attitude was to leave them alone and let them flourish. “
Cicillin doesn’t think many lawmakers “understood the implications of the kind of market power, the monopoly power that these companies developed over time.” A lack of a “deep understanding” of technology may have been one of the problems that caused the stagnation, while high economic power “translates into significant political power” and potentially
Antitrust agencies were not “sufficiently creative or enthusiastic about the work”, he suggests, while the country did not have “Congress providing sufficient funding for these agencies.” What has changed the way of thinking is that “people are starting to experience and understand more directly what the consequences are”.
The strategy of providing five tech bills was due to the fact that this was the area with the greatest level of bipartisanship, while the use of five smaller bills was to “broadcast some of the attack rather than having it all in one bill that all opponents can point to. “
Acquisitions and arrogance
By covering all five bills, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act has received a lot of attention, a bill that could prevent tech giants from acquiring other platforms that pose a “competitive threat.”
Responding to an email from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the “land grabbing strategy” regarding copying, murder and business acquisition, the congressman did not apologize for the existence of the bill.
“These are companies and CEOs who have been allowed to do whatever they want,” Cicillin said. “They engaged in completely unregulated business practices. They were allowed to acquire competitors, destroy competitors, promote their own goods and services, engage in highly anti-competitive behavior without any consequences.”
Of Zuckerberg’s comments themselves, he adds, “It didn’t surprise me that some of that arrogance is reflected in the emails.”
The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act would update filing fees for the first time since 2001, and could raise an additional $ 135 million in its first year. The reason is to ensure that antitrust law enforcement officials “have the resources they need to do this enforcement job.”
Pressed on how the enforcers are seemingly overwhelmed, Cicilline mentions the size of the companies and their interest in defending a lucrative ecosystem. “They are competing with a government agency that has very, very limited resources,” he admits.
Facebook’s $ 5 billion fine is increased, with interviewer Kara Swisher revealing that an FTC staff member told her the settlement was due to the FTC not having the resources to operate. beat and demand a higher fine.
Cicillin called it “appalling, but we have a responsibility to ensure that this excuse is never used again, by providing the necessary resources.”
User data quotes
At the end of the interview, the subject of subpoenas for Apple user data came up. In addition to insisting that there be “a full inspector general investigation,” he proposed that Apple could have done more to fight the subpoenas in the first place.
“But the question is, if they are contesting this, did they have a responsibility to contest on behalf of their users? It’s the problem of a company with so much power, so much data. bother to challenge or oppose in any way, or take a closer look, or did they just do it to facilitate what they knew the president’s administration wanted? “
He adds that tech companies presumably have some idea of the advisability of submitting to subpoenas for user data as freely as they seem. On whether tech companies should testify, Cicillin said it would be “very helpful to hear from them.”
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