DOJ antitrust cop hammers ‘whack-a-mole’ approach to reining in Big Tech


By Theo Wayt

“You really need to unplug the machine,” Kanter said.

The US Justice Department’s top antitrust officer said he wants to “unplug” monopolistic companies from Big Tech and confirmed his support for a stalled Congressional bill to rein in Google (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), Meta (META) and Apple (AAPL) in a fiery speech on Friday.

Jonathan Kanter, the Biden-appointed assistant attorney general who heads the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said U.S. regulators have previously taken a “mole swoop” approach to monopolistic behavior by Big Tech companies.

“Nobody really wins this game – the moles keep coming,” Kanter said. “To stop them from appearing, you really need to unplug the machine. In the same way, enforcement officials need to unplug the monopolization machine in the digital platform industries.”

Speaking at Fordham University’s conference on international law and policy in Manhattan, Kanter called on U.S. antitrust regulators to take a much more aggressive approach to enforcing current laws.

“The digital economy has enabled monopoly power of a kind and degree never seen before in our country,” Kanter told a Fordham Law School audience that included many lawyers who defend tech companies. against regulators like him.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sense. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and passed by the Senate Judiciary in January, would ban Big Tech companies from favoring their products over competitors in search results. . For example, Amazon would not be allowed to favor its Amazon Basics products over its competitors.

Kanter, who did not address the companies by name but spoke about Big Tech more generally, also reiterated the Justice Department’s support for the U.S. Online Innovation and Choice Act, which remains stalled in Congress.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he supported the bill but did not put it to a vote, even though Klobuchar and Grassley insisted for months that they had the vote to adopt it. Big Tech haters have accused Schumer of delaying the bill, while Schumer insists he waits until he has enough votes.

Before joining the Justice Department in July 2021, Kanter represented Google rivals and critics including Microsoft (MSFT), Yelp (YELP) and parent company New York Post News Corp (NWSA).

Before Kanter’s speech, he greeted European Union competition commissioner Margethe Vestager with a kiss on the cheek.

Vestager spoke at the conference days after scoring a major victory over Google when a European court largely dismissed the search giant’s appeal for a record $4 billion fine for strangling competition and reduces consumer choice through the dominance of its Android mobile operating system.

On Friday, two other top Biden administration antitrust officials also spoke.

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan called antitrust legislation in Congress an “extremely healthy development,” while White House economic adviser Tim Wu called on lawmakers to better fund the FTC and the Ministry of Justice.

“Agencies are engaged in extremely complicated, resource-intensive, expert-empty litigation,” Wu said.

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(END) Dow Jones Newswire

09-17-22 1431ET

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