House Democrats' big tech and antitrust research findings recommend data sharing and blocking future mergers by 'dominant' platforms

  • House Democrats released the results of their 16-month investigation of competition in the digital marketplace.
  • And their recommendations could reshape big tech, but actual legislation may be far off.

House Democrats presented their research findings on big tech and antitrust practices in a 450-page report Tuesday, saying not only that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are monopolies, but that they've also abused their power. The legislators laid out recommendations for how to restore competition in the digital marketplace and amend and then enforce antitrust laws in the future.

While the report comes after 16 months of investigations into the companies, these are just preliminary findings and do not represent legislative action. For context, the noted US government antitrust case against Microsoft took nearly 10 years from start to finish, and given the timeline of the current investigation—plus the fact that Republican lawmakers have not voiced support for this report or its recommendations—it's safe to assume that this antitrust saga is just beginning.

The lawmakers made recommendations under three brackets:

  • Restoring competition in the digital economy through data sharing and portability; giving news publishers safe harbor so there can be a free and diverse press; prohibiting mergers and acquisitions by dominant platforms, among others.
  • Strengthening antitrust laws, which includes strengthening parts of the Clayton Act and Sherman Act, both of which pertain to blocking actions companies take to either lessen competition or create monopolies.
  • Reviving antitrust enforcement by restoring "robust congressional oversight of the antitrust laws and their enforcement," which includes increasing budgets for oversight; rejuvenating federal antitrust agencies; reviewing regular merger retrospectives, and others.

These recommendations indicate that House legislators want to go after mergers and acquisitions and data ownership. Over two decades, Google has acquired 270 companies, 171 of which were competitors, and Facebook has acquired 92 companies, including 46 direct competitors.

Those acquisitions allowed the giants to reach a substantial portion of the global population, providing them troves of data points to further build out their businesses. Separately, the House also recommended requiring interoperability and data portability via open access between dominant platforms. This could "encourage competition by lowering entry barriers for competitors and switching [between systems or platforms] costs by consumers," the legislators wrote.

"These reforms would complement vigorous antitrust enforcement by spurring competitive entry." If legislators begin blocking mergers and acquisitions that helped transform these platforms, or if the companies are required to share their data troves, there would be healthier competition in the digital marketplace in the long run.

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