Jun 15, 2021 - Technology

Senate confirms antitrust expert Lina Khan as FTC commissioner

Lina Khan speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing.
Lina Khan speaks at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing. Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The Senate voted 69-28 on Tuesday to confirm antitrust expert Lina Khan as a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Known for her work on how to apply antitrust laws to the tech industry, Khan's confirmation marks a changing tide in federal government efforts to rein in Big Tech companies, Axios' Ashley Gold and Margaret Harding McGill report.

The big picture: Khan, 32, is praised by tech critics who want to see broader principles replace the "consumer welfare" standard of antitrust.

Yes, but: Her nomination drew criticism from some Republicans who say her antitrust positions go too far.

  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said after Khan's nomination that she lacks experience for the role, arguing: "This moment is too important for our antitrust enforcers to be learning on the job."

Catch up quick: Khan was nominated to be a commissioner on the FTC by the Biden administration in March. She's an associate professor of law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches antitrust.

  • Formerly an adviser for the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust investigation of tech firms, Khan also worked for Democratic FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra.
  • Khan rose to prominence in 2017 when she wrote an article for Yale Law Journal titled, "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox," arguing that Amazon's retail business should be separated from its selling platform.

What's next: President Biden has one remaining commissioner position to fill to round out the FTC's five seats. The commission currently has an acting chair — Democrat Rebecca Slaughter — and another seat will open up if Chopra is confirmed as Biden's nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Go deeper: Biden gives tech's toughest critics seats at the policy table

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