US Antitrust Report Hints At Tech Firm Breakup – Report

Big name tech firms could be facing a possible breakup call in a draft antitrust report from the US House of Representatives.

This draft report apparently contains a “thinly veiled call to break up” the companies, Republican Congressman Ken Buck said in a draft response seen by Reuters.

The report is due out this week and targets big names in the tech industry including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google’s patent Alphabet.

Break-up call

And it seems that this break-up call is no idle threat, after a Buck representative confirmed to Reuters the authenticity of the draft response, which was first reported by Politico.

In the draft, Buck said he shared Democratic concerns about the power of Big Tech firms, with their penchant for “killer acquisitions” to eliminate rivals and self-preferencing in guiding customers to their other products.

But Buck objected to a plan to require tech firm to delineate a clear “single line of business”.

This would be difficult requirement to achieve for big name tech firms. Google for example owns a search engine, plus Android, YouTube and Office productivity software.

Amazon, besides its mammoth e-commerce store, also owns the leading cloud computing unit (AWS) and even Ring doorbells.

Facebook owns a social networking platform but also messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

“This proposal is a thinly veiled call to break up Big Tech firms. We do not agree with the majority’s approach,” Buck reportedly wrote.

Reuters reported it is unclear at this time how many Republicans will support the report, which is being led by Democratic Chairman David Cicilline. Bipartisan support for reports and recommendations often carry more weight.

“The report offers a chilling look into how Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook have used their power to control how we see and understand the world,” Buck wrote.

He agreed with some of the report’s recommendations, such as making it easier for the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to stop mergers by lowering their burden of proof, and allowing consumers to take control of their data through data portability and interoperability between platforms.

“These potential changes need not be dramatic to be effective,” Buck wrote.

Political battles

Buck also said he was displeased that the report failed to address conservative allegations that some platforms have tried to stifle conservative voices.

Last week the US Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday unanimously voted to approve a plan to subpoena chief executives of Twitter, Alphabet’s Google and Facebook for a hearing.

That came after after tech bosses refuse to appear on a voluntary basis before the US Senate panel on reform of Section 230 legal immunity.

The last time big name tech bosses appeared in Washington DC was in the summer when Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos and Sundar Pichai appeared virtually before a US committee to answer antitrust and anticompetitive allegations.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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