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Big Tech faces antitrust questions on Capitol Hill

Meghan McCarty Carino Jul 16, 2019
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DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

Big Tech is in the hot seat on Capitol Hill this week, with multiple committee panels in the House and Senate over Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency, Libra, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee taking on Google over censorship concerns and the House Judiciary antitrust panel hosting all of the Big Four: Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, as part of a major antitrust investigation.

In our polarized political culture these days, almost nothing is bipartisan except piling on big tech companies said Adam Thierer, senior fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

“These tech leaders have become the equivalent of political piñatas with politicians sort of swinging their regulatory sticks,” he said.

The Big Four have faced increasing scrutiny for their outsized market power and questionable data and content policies, which politicians on both sides criticize.

It’s a big shift from the favorable reception tech moguls received in Washington even just a few years ago, said Margaret O’Mara, author of “The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America.” 

“U.S. government has enforced very lightly over the last four decades and now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction,” she said.

It reminds O’Mara of the Gilded Age, more than a century ago, when wealthy industrialists spurred the creation of the antitrust regulations invoked today.

“This is not railroads and steel anymore but I think this is an inflection point,” she said — one at which government leaders are reckoning with a fast moving tech industry that’s outpacing regulation.

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