WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Tuesday appointed a forceful critic of Big Tech as the chief federal regulator at a time when the industry is under intense pressure from Congress, regulators and state attorneys general.

The selection of lawyer Lina Khan as head of the Federal Trade Commission is seen as a signal of a tough stance on tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. Khan was sworn in as FTC chairman just hours after the Senate confirmed her as one of five members of the committee on a 69-28 vote.

Khan was a professor at Columbia University Law School and burst onto the antitrust scene with her massive academic work in 2017 as a Yale law student, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” She helped lay the groundwork for a new way of approaching antitrust law beyond the impact of large corporate market dominance on consumer prices. As an advisor to a House Judiciary antitrust panel in 2019 and 2020, she played a key role in a large bipartisan investigation into the market power of tech giants.

At 32, she would be the youngest president in the history of the FTC, which monitors competition and consumer protection in the industry in general, as well as digital privacy.

“Lina brings deep knowledge and expertise to this role and will be a fearless champion for consumers,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Who called for the disbandment of the tech industry, in a statement. “The giant tech companies deserve the scrutiny they face, and consolidation is stifling competition in US industries. With President Khan at the helm, we have a huge opportunity to make big structural changes by reviving antitrust enforcement and fighting the monopolies that threaten our economy, society and democracy.

Khan also served as legal counsel to Rohit Chopra, commissioner of the FTC, and was previously legal director of the Open Markets Institute, an organization that campaigns against corporate concentration.

“It is a tremendous honor to have been chosen by President Biden to head the Federal Trade Commission,” Khan said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to protect the public from corporate abuse.”

Biden said as a presidential candidate that the dismantling of big tech companies should be considered. He also said he wanted to see social media companies’ long-standing legal protections for speech on their platforms quickly abolished.

Biden appointed Tim Wu, also an academic antitrust expert and industry critic, in March as the president’s special assistant for technology and competition policy on the National Economic Council. Wu, like Khan, a law professor at Columbia, was a senior advisor to the FTC and senior law enforcement attorney in the New York attorney general’s office.

The tech industry, once viewed by lawmakers and presidents as an engine of innovation and jobs, has seen its political fortunes eroded in recent years. Calls are increasing to break the giants of Silicon Valley.

Lawmakers on both sides are pushing for tighter oversight of the tech industry, arguing its enormous market power is out of control, crushing smaller competitors and endangering consumer privacy. They say companies are hiding behind a legal shield to allow false information to thrive on their social media networks or to entrench prejudice.

Last fall, Trump’s, state-joined Justice Department filed a groundbreaking antitrust complaint against Google, accusing the search giant of abusing its market dominance to stifle competition. This was followed in December by another major antitrust lawsuit, brought by the FTC and a range of states.

Amazon and Apple are under close scrutiny by anti-trust authorities at the Department of Justice, now under Biden’s purview, and by the independent, bipartisan FTC. Twitter has joined Facebook and Google in dealing with frequent run-ins with lawmakers over its policies to moderate content on its platform.

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers, driven by the results of the judicial panel investigation of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple, on Friday proposed sweeping legislation to curb Big Tech, possibly forcing the giants to dismantle their businesses while making it difficult for them. acquire others. Those kind of mandatory breaks through legislative overhaul would be a drastic step for Congress to take and could be a bridge too far for some Republican lawmakers.

Some Republican lawmakers have denounced the new antitrust school of thought, championed by Khan and Wu and increasingly prevalent among Democrats, which goes beyond the impact of corporate market dominance on consumer prices. for its wider effects on industries, employees and communities.

The school is nicknamed “hipster antitrust” by its detractors. With this approach, Democrats seek to use antitrust law not to promote competition but to advance social or environmental goals, Republicans argue.

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