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Sen. Josh Hawley, (R-Mo.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

GOP Sen. Josh Hawley's frustration with the FTC's policing of the tech industry has prompted him to propose taking the more-than-100-year-old agency off of merger reviews and turning what remains into a wing of the Justice Department.

The big picture: The FTC has been under fire from both Republicans and Democrats calling for tougher action on Big Tech; Hawley's pitch is to hand the agency's competition authority to the DOJ's antitrust division so that a reimagined FTC could hone its focus on privacy and other digital issues.

Yes, but: Relocating the agency, created in 1914, to a branch of the Justice Department is a tall order and it's unclear if Hawley's idea will gain any support.

Details: Hawley says his plan would make the FTC directly accountable to the Justice Department while giving it special authority to address digital markets.

  • Rather than a 5-member commission, the FTC would be run by a Senate-confirmed director who would report to the DOJ's Associate Attorney General.
  • The DOJ's antitrust division would take over review of any mergers and acquisitions that might otherwise fall to the FTC, ending the overlapping jurisdiction that has been a source of congressional complaints.
  • The proposal instead calls for the creation of a "digital markets research section" within the FTC that would conduct studies of the marketplace and bolster DOJ litigation.
  • To increase enforcement, the proposal would give the FTC authority to limit the amount of data firms can collect, enforce new data portability and interoperability requirements, and impose civil penalties for first-time violations of those new rules.

What they're saying: "The FTC isn't working," Hawley said in a statement. "It wastes time in turf wars with the DOJ, nobody is accountable for decisions, and it lacks the 'teeth' to get after Big Tech's rampant abuses. Congress needs to do something about it."

What it doesn't do: Hawley shot down calls for the creation of a brand-new agency to police tech companies, saying his overhaul of the FTC is the better answer.

What's next: Legislation based on the proposal will come in short order, according to a Hawley aide.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How the tech stock selloff is hurting average Americans

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.

2 hours ago - World

UN rights chief: At least 54 killed, 1,700 detained since Myanmar coup

A Feb. 7 protest in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

Police and military officers in Myanmar have killed at least 54 people during anti-coup protests, while "arbitrarily" detaining over 1,700 people, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

Why it matters: Protesters have demonstrating across Myanmar for nearly a month, demanding the restoration of democracy after the country's military leaders overthrew its democratically elected government on Feb. 1.

3 hours ago - Health

The danger of a fourth wave

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.

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