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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration isn't talking a big game on tech antitrust. But it's beginning to construct a pretty big stick.

Why it matters: This could slow down a very active tech merger market, and possibly scuttle existing deals.

Driving the news: Lina Khan, well-known in antitrust circles for her ideas about stopping platforms like Amazon from competing directly with sellers, is being vetted to be nominated as an FTC commissioner.

  • Axios' Margaret Harding McGill and Ashley Gold write: "Khan represents a newer school of antitrust thought, where companies' size, market dominance and treatment of competitors is considered anticompetitive behavior that regulators need to reel in — rather than judging monopoly power primarily by harm to consumers."
  • Consideration of Khan follows the recent appointment of Tim Wu as special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy. He's credited with coining the term "net neutrality" and wrote an entire book about the dangers of Big Tech.
  • And, yesterday, the Senate held a confirmation hearing for Vanita Gupta to oversee the Justice Department's antitrust and civil rights divisions. She's not quite as oppositional to Big Tech as Khan and Wu, but she has been critical of Facebook.

Whiplash: All of this must sting Silicon Valley execs who had luxuriated in red carpet treatment from the Obama-Biden White House.

Unknowns: President Biden hasn't tipped his hand on who he wants to directly lead antitrust, reporting to Gupta. Same goes for the FTC chair — some progressives are hoping Khan gets that role, but it seems unlikely.

State of play: During the Trump administration, tech companies mostly ignored the antitrust rhetoric and just kept buying. There were some notable failures — such as DraftKings/FanDuel and Visa/Plaid — but they didn't scare anyone off.

  • The one to watch right now is Facebook's planned $1 billion deal for Kustomer, which reportedly is facing FTC scrutiny.

The bottom line: The winds of change are blowing, and it could soon get gusty in Silicon Valley.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron would also help against the new variant of concern, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."

4 hours ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.