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Tim Wu and Lina Khan. Photos: Getty Images

An influx of tech antitrust hardliners in the Biden administration signals a new toughness on tech from the Democrats.

Why it matters: Tech companies that grew unfettered by regulation during the Obama administration will now be under scrutiny from advocates that have made a name for themselves by targeting the behemoths' size and power.

Lina Khan, well-known in antitrust circles for her ideas about stopping platforms like Amazon from competing directly with sellers, is being vetted as a nominee for a slot as Democratic FTC commissioner, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The news was first reported by Politico.

  • Khan is a former public interest advocate who did a stint at the FTC working for former Democratic commissioner Rohit Chopra, and served as an adviser on the House Judiciary Committee during its year-long investigation of Big Tech firms.
  • 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.

Tim Wu, known for coining the term "net neutrality," was named a special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy.

  • His role at the White House will encompass competition policy in other industries as well, according to a New York Times report.
  • Wu is a Columbia University Professor and author of "The Curse of Bigness" about the dangers of Big Tech's growing power.
  • He previously worked for the New York Attorney General, and also held advisor roles at the FTC and for the White House's National Economic Council during the Obama administration.

Of note: The Senate Judiciary Committee holds its confirmation hearing for civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta, nominated for Associate Attorney General, on Tuesday.

  • If confirmed, Gupta, who's been critical of Facebook, would oversee the antitrust and civil rights divisions at the Justice Department. However, Biden has not yet nominated a leader for the antitrust division.

What they're saying: "The president has been clear — on the campaign, and, probably, more recently — that he stands up to the abuse of power, and that includes the abuse of power from big technology companies and their executives," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week.

Reality check: The roles Khan and Wu will hold within in the administration are not final decision makers, so while they will be influential in shaping the debate, they won't have the last word on outcomes.

What to watch: Biden's pick to lead the Justice Department's antitrust division and the permanent chair of the FTC, which launched cases against Google and Facebook last year, will give more clarity on the administration's stance on antitrust enforcement.

Go deeper

Bernie Sanders: U.S. must recognize that "Palestinian rights matter"

Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo: Stefani Reynolds via Getty Images

The United States must encourage an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East and adopt an "evenhanded approach" that recognizes Palestinians and Israelis have a right to "live in peace and security," Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote in a New York Times opinion on Friday.

Driving the news: Violence escalated this week after Israelis intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. Hamas fired rockets and Israel massed troops, leaving more than 125 Palestinians and seven people in Israel dead.

3 hours ago - Technology

Exclusive: Uber makes new hire, launches anti-racism campaigns

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Eager to show progress on the pledge to make its platform and business anti-racist, Uber on Friday announced new anti-racism driver and rider campaigns, as well as fresh internal hiring practices, Axios was first to report.

Why it matters: Uber is one of the biggest ride hailing companies in the world. Its decisions impact the millions that use the platform, where drivers and riders alike say they have experienced racism.

Ex-Gaetz associate admits to sex trafficking, will cooperate with federal prosecutors

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) speaks during the "Save America Summit" at the Trump National Doral golf resort on April 09, 2021 in Doral, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Staff via Getty Images

Joel Greenberg, a former associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and admitted to a variety of federal charges including sex trafficking a minor, the New York Times reported Friday citing court papers.

Why it matters: Investigators believe Greenberg introduced women to Gaetz for paid sex and are looking into the Florida congressman's alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Greenberg could be a key witness as federal prosecutors decide whether to charge Gaetz.