Feb 20, 2020 - Technology

Lawmakers add staff to tech antitrust investigation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is staffing up as it works to finish its investigation into the competitive impact of tech giants.

Why it matters: The House probe's findings will help shape legislation that may aim to toughen antitrust law for the digital era, and they could offer fuel for similar investigations already under way by state and federal antitrust enforcers.

Driving the news: The antitrust panel has brought on two new staffers in recent months as it wades through documents from Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google in the competition review.

  • Former IBM consultant Anna Lenhart, a Congressional Innovation Fellow, joined the staff this month as a technical expert, a person familiar with the hire told Axios. Lenhart, a Carnegie Mellon graduate, most recently focused on artificial intelligence and ethics for IBM.
  • Former Public Knowledge policy director Phillip Berenbroick joined the subcommittee as counsel in January.

What's next: Antitrust subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline has said he expects the investigation to produce a bipartisan report outlining its findings by the end of the first quarter. He also intends to introduce legislation related to the report.

  • Cicilline has said he wants to hear from major tech company CEOs, something the White House has also encouraged, according to a recent report by The Hill.

Go deeper

Coronavirus will delay lawmakers' tech antitrust investigation

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images.

The spread of the coronavirus will delay a House antitrust investigation into Big Tech and online markets, the Democrat leading the probe said Thursday.

Driving the news: Rep. David Cicilline, who chairs the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said the public health crisis will push back a bipartisan report detailing the investigation's findings, originally set for release at the end of this month.

Tech's antitrust probes push on in face of pandemic

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Big Tech companies, like other U.S. institutions, have donned a mantle of public service by mobilizing to help combat the coronavirus epidemic — but they still have big antitrust targets on their back.

The big picture: Federal and state enforcers and Washington lawmakers are all investigating potential anticompetitive practices by tech giants like Google and Facebook. The pandemic has complicated the timelines of these probes, but hasn't knocked them off their tracks.

House Democrat takes aim at tech liability shield over false ads

Rep. David Cicilline. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

The chair of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee is preparing a bill that would remove liability protections from tech platforms that don't take down false political ads, Bloomberg Law reported Monday.

The big picture: Facebook's policy of not fact-checking political ads has angered Democrats, and tinkering with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which immunizes internet platforms from lawsuits over user-posted material, has become an increasingly popular threat for lawmakers looking to bring Big Tech to heel.