Categories: RegulationWorkspace

White House Appoints Big Tech Critic Tim Wu As Adviser

The US’ Biden administration has appointed Tim Wu, a prominent critic of large tech companies, as an adviser on competition policy.

The White House said the move was aimed at helping to rein in the “abuse of power” by major tech firms such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Wu, a Columbia Law School professor, is the author of several books about tech competition issues and is credited with coining the term “net neutrality” in 2002 to describe rules guaranteeing a level playing field online.

He also devised an oft-cited statement describing the privacy trade-off that drives the business model of many large tech companies: “When an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”

Competition policy

Wu, who has said it is his “life mission” to “fight bullies”, is to be appointed as special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy.

During his campaign Joe Biden said Section 230, which protects internet companies from legal action over the content they make available, should be revoked.

He has also said breaking up large tech firms is “something we should take a really hard look at”.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters the president intended to stand up against the “abuse of power from big technology companies and their executives”.

“Tim will help advance the president’s agenda, which includes addressing the economic and social challenges posed by the growing power of tech platforms, promoting competition and addressing monopoly and market power issues,” Psaki said.

‘Oligopolies’

Wu has said some of the large mergers of the past decade should be revisited and has indicated support for the break-up of what he termed “oligopolies”.

That position was also supported by the Federal Trade Commission and a group of 46 US states who brought an antitrust action against Facebook in December, and cited forced break-up as a possible remedy.

The antitrust action against Google brought by the US Department of Justice and 11 state attorneys general earlier last year is another sign of the current mood amongst regulators.

Meanwhile, Apple is the latest company to come under scrutiny by European regulators, with the UK’s competition authority opening an investigation into the rules governing its App Store.

The EU is also reportedly close to its first formal antitrust charges against Apple, following a complaint by Spotify.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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