Turns out bipartisanship isn’t dead, it’s just rare. Unfortunately, for tech titans Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple, members of both parties seem to have agreed that it’s past time to crack down on the anti-competitive practices that have flourished in the industry. Exhibit A: Last week, Democrats unveiled five bills, each with a Republican co-sponsor, designed to reign in tech power. Trustbuster Lina Khan’s Senate confirmation to the Federal Trade Commission Tuesday is Exhibit B.
Khan, championed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “the leading intellectual force in the modern antitrust movement,” earned the support of more than a dozen Republicans, including Sens. Ron Johnson and Josh Hawley, and was confirmed by a margin of 69-28. (Hawley, author of The Tyranny of Big Tech, said earlier this year he was “very impressed” with Khan.)
Thirty-two-year-old Khan slingshotted to prominence in 2017, when, as a law student, she authored a paper published in the Yale Law Review examining the ways existing antitrust laws failed to anticipate or act as a check on Amazon’s rise. Before she was nominated to the FTC herself, Khan served as legal adviser to another FTC commissioner, Rohit Chopra, now Biden’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Khan also acted as a counsel for the House’s Antitrust Subcommittee, where she helped lead a 16-month investigation of antitrust issues involving tech companies. That investigation ultimately led to the drafting of the five bills introduced last week: The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act, and the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act.
Among other provisions, the new bills could potentially change the rules on who is allowed on Apple’s App Store, whether Amazon can sell its own Amazon-made products, and whether Facebook or Google can acquire smaller startups before they can grow into real rivals.
Khan, who will be one of the youngest FTC commissioners ever, tweeted Tuesday: “I’m so grateful to the Senate for my confirmation. Congress created the FTC to safeguard fair competition and protect consumers, workers, and honest businesses from unfair & deceptive practices. I look forward to upholding this mission with vigor and serving the American public.”