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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

House Democrats and Republicans are finding common ground on a set of principles for countering tech monopolies that they believe could drive a bipartisan push in the new Congress to update antitrust law.

The big picture: Representatives from both parties are finding it easier to agree on antitrust policy ideas than on proposals about content moderation and liability, where the two parties couldn't be further apart despite agreeing on the need for change.

Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel, which issued a sweeping report this year proposing steps to rein in big tech firms, have zeroed in on at least four ideas, according to a Hill source:

  1. More funding for key antitrust enforcers, chiefly the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, so they can take on wealthy, heavily lawyered tech companies.
  2. Changing the burden of proof for proposed mergers so that companies whose market share passes a certain threshold are assumed to be monopolies and must prove their deal does not harm competition.
  3. Data portability requirements for platforms, so that consumers can move their information from one service to another.
  4. Prohibitions on platform bias and "self-preferencing," which is when information services display their own listings above those of competitors.

Background: The committee's 450-page October report outlined dozens of legislative fixes and enforcement ideas to shore up current antitrust law.

The committee majority report's recommendation of "structural separations" prohibiting platform owners from also participating in the markets they run is going to be a harder sell for Republicans.

  • There's little agreement on that issue, Rep. David Cicilline, the Democrat who heads up the antitrust subpanel, told Axios.
  • And any bill on "self-preferencing" would be a lengthy project, he said, requiring technical drafting and additional bipartisan support.

The intrigue: President-elect Biden's win adds to the chances antitrust legislation will be successful next year, Cicilline said: "He's dedicated his entire life to checking big corporate power and recognizes the importance of competition.... There is real alignment between the subcommittee and the administration."

Between the lines: Rep. Ken Buck — a Colorado Republican on the committee who released his own antitrust report and has worked across the aisle on this issue — is likely to run for ranking member of the antitrust subcommittee, one Hill source said, elevating his role going forward.

What's next: Key lawmakers and sources familiar with the committee's work say staffers aim to produce bills that can be introduced early next year.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Fortnite developer brings on its first lobbyists

An 11-year-old gamer plays Fortnite in South Pasadena, California, last April. Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The company behind the wildly popular video game franchise Fortnite, which is suing Apple over alleged anti-competitive practices, hired its first lobbyists this month to “monitor” antitrust issues in Washington.

Why it matters: Epic Games’ case against Apple has potentially huge legal and financial stakes. The company’s decision to enlist K Street veterans with connections on both sides of the aisle indicates it is tuning into D.C., where both parties have railed against anti-competitive practices in the tech industry.

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
16 mins ago - Economy & Business

First glimpse of the Biden market

Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images

Investors made clear what companies they think will be winners and which will be losers in President Joe Biden's economy on Wednesday, selling out of gun makers, pot purveyors, private prison operators and payday lenders, and buying up gambling, gaming, beer stocks and Big Tech.

What happened: Private prison operator CoreCivic and private prison REIT Geo fell by 7.8% and 4.1%, respectively, while marijuana ETF MJ dropped 2% and payday lenders World Acceptance and EZCorp each fell by more than 1%.

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