US senator proposes bill to block Big Tech acquisitions

14 Apr 2021244 Views

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Republican Josh Hawley railed against monopolies in the tech industry and said there needs to be a ‘new trust-busting agenda’.

A US senator has presented a bill that proposes blocking Big Tech firms from acquiring other companies.

The sweeping bill from Republican Josh Hawley would prevent mergers and acquisitions by companies with a market cap of more than $100bn.

Under that remit, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce, to name just a few, would be blocked from acquiring other companies. Twitter, with its current market cap of $57bn, would escape the rules.

Hawley introduced the Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act this week. While Hawley is a Republican who has tried to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election win, his criticisms of the power of Big Tech have had more in common with Elizabeth Warren than the colleagues in his own party.

“Monopoly and liberty don’t go together. No corporation should be so big and so powerful that it can override the voice of the people. We need a new trust-busting agenda,” the Missouri senator said on Twitter.

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In a report from Axios, Hawley revealed that the bill would force companies that are found in violation of the rules to “forfeit all their profits resulting from monopolistic conduct” and it would give the Federal Trade Commission more powers to investigate large tech firm monopolies.

Hawley’s bill is the latest in a string of diatribes by US lawmakers against tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

As it stands, the Republican’s bill is unlikely to get far in a Senate that is controlled by the Democrats. It does, however, fit into a broader narrative on each side of the aisle.

Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar presented a bill of her own in February that looked to curtail merger and acquisition activity.

Other lawmakers have floated proposals that would force the break-up of some big tech companies or divestment from some of their business units.

A 16-month investigation by members of the US government last year found that Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook enjoy “monopoly power” in the tech ecosystem. Last month, the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter sat before another hearing at Congress to answer questions about misinformation and so-called ‘fake news’.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

editorial@siliconrepublic.com