Jul 17, 2019

Congress' Big Tech triple play

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill who no longer seem able to agree on the color of the sky found common ground Tuesday across three committee hearings in both houses of Congress: Big Tech is too powerful and needs to be knocked down a peg.

Why it matters: While it's not out of the "all talk" stage yet, regulation of tech is starting to seem like something both parties can agree on — and that should worry Silicon Valley.

Driving the news: Tech executives appeared before three separate committees on Tuesday to face different versions of the complaint that their industry has grown too big for its digital britches.

  • A House Judiciary subcommittee looked at monopolistic behavior by Big Tech.
  • A Senate Judiciary subcommittee grilled Google on "censorship" and bias.
  • The Senate Banking Committee demanded Facebook explain its plans to launch a cryptocurrency.

What's next: As this year opened with a wave of congressional scrutiny of tech, privacy legislation seemed the most likely outcome. Now, the conflict has broadened onto much wider terrain.

  • This includes looming antitrust investigations, free-speech and political bias complaints, calls to revoke tech platforms' legal protections, demands for independent audits of search results and content moderation, and even charges of treason.

The bottom line: Never bet against Congress' inertia and deadlock. But there are now so many directions from which blows could land on Big Tech that it's hard to imagine the industry escaping unscathed.

Go deeper: What Apple, Facebook and Google each mean by "privacy"

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New squeeze for Facebook, Amazon

Big Tech got squeezed from both sides of the Atlantic on Wednesday.

What's happening: The EU will investigate how Amazon creates products that compete with offerings from outside merchants on its site. "Brussels is also poised to conclude a four-year probe into US chipmaker Qualcomm by fining the company for abuse of dominant position." Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have found common ground: Big Tech is too powerful and needs to be knocked down a peg.

Go deeperArrowJul 17, 2019

The antitrust vise tightens on tech

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Justice Department's announcement Tuesday that it will probe the market power of online platforms is the latest sign of deepening trouble in Washington for major tech companies.

Why it matters: Antitrust action is one of the most significant steps a government can take to rein in a company — and Justice's announcement is the kind that can kick off years-long probes.

Go deeperArrowJul 24, 2019

Google in the Senate hot seat

Google's Karan Bhatia at Senate Judiciary hearing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Google faced stern words from both sides of the aisle at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing about its power over online content Tuesday afternoon.

Why it matters: As new privacy regulations and antitrust initiatives aimed at Big Tech build momentum, everyone on Capitol Hill seems to have their own set of gripes with the companies, leaving them little political safe harbor.

Go deeperArrowJul 17, 2019