Democratic Congress Prepares to Take On Big Tech

The ideas mirror many recommendations introduced last October in a House judiciary report led by Representative David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat. But her bill won’t include provisions to unwind past mergers and other structural reforms, as his report had recommended.

Her bill, as well as other laws proposed to limit the power of the tech companies, will face steep opposition. In 2020, tech companies again spent more than other industries in Washington. Facebook, with lawsuits from federal and state enforcement officials, spent almost $20 million on lobbying, up 18 percent from the previous year. Amazon spent about $18 million in lobbying, up about 11 percent from the prior year.

Internet start-ups are also wary of regulations that could stymie their exit strategies to merge with larger companies as well as changes to rules that could hold them liable for the content they host. And agriculture, pharmaceutical and other industries will also probably balk at changes in antitrust laws.

But Democrats are also facing pressure from the left. Progressive groups, and some liberal lawmakers, want to dismantle the biggest companies. In a sign of the battles to come, those groups have raised concerns in recent weeks about some potential nominees for top antitrust agency roles who they say won’t be aggressive enough against the industry.

“We’d hope to see the antitrust subcommittee in the Senate collaborate with the House subcommittee to enact the full suite of recommendations in the digital markets report into law,” said Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, a left-leaning nonprofit advocacy group focused on fighting corporate power. “We won’t be shy about pushing for bolder approaches when the need arises.”

Ms. Klobuchar says fresh outrage over the role of social media in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 has united lawmakers in their animus toward digital platforms, but for different reasons. Democrats are angry that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube allowed President Donald J. Trump and far-right groups to spread disinformation about the election that led to the riot. Republicans are motivated by the decisions of the platforms to bar Mr. Trump and his far-right supporters.

Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado and a senior member of the House antitrust subcommittee, said he would work with Democrats on legislation, more hearings and investigations of the tech sector.

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