House Democrats to Big Tech: Despite what you think, you're not above the law

House Democrats called for sweeping legislative changes in an antitrust report slamming CEOs for 'abusive' practices akin to the era of the oil barons.

The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Just a week after it was reported that the Department of Justice was looking into possibly suing Google for alleged data monopoly, it looks like House Democrats have a message for Silicon Valley, too. In a freshly published antitrust report, House Democrats have called for major and sweeping changes to anti-monopoly laws as a direct criticism of Big Tech, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The published report, which you can read here, is titled the Investigation of Competition in Digital Market, constituting 449 pages from the House Judiciary Committee's Democratic wing. The Democratic leadership specifically calls out Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google for starting as "scrappy" and "underdog" companies that eventually metastasized into "the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons."

Referencing recent antitrust hearings, the report says CEOs Jeff Bezos, Tom Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai have failed to ease any doubts about their business practices, instead being "evasive and non-responsive, raising fresh questions about whether they believe they are beyond the reach of democratic oversight."

It packs a powerful punch. In numbers, it includes 1,287,997 documents, 38 witness testimonies in regards to antitrust cases, an audio recording that yielded a transcript of over 1,800 pages, 60 antitrust analysts who submitted 38 reports ranging from left to right political opinions, over 240 market experts, and even accounts from employees previously working at these firms.

What do Democrats want? — Since June 2019, House Judiciary Committee has attempted to speak more seriously about Big Tech's market dominance problem. For months now, Apple's commission rate, Google's search engine, Facebook's internal emails about competitions (and its silence over its Instagram operations), studies on Amazon's market recommendation practices, and more have shown that these powerful corporations exercise a considerable and worrying amount of say over smaller competitors and their subsequent commercial futures and revenue.

The Democratic leadership insists that one of the solutions would be to break up Big Tech — which lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren previously argued in favor of — and restructure the makeup of these firms.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, these lawmakers believe that current antitrust laws prove to be insufficient as regulating efforts and need to be reformed immediately. A legislative re-alignment could rein in the reach of these companies, and provide necessary control and accountability.

What happens now? — This is the most charged report emanating from the House since the 1990s, which was the era Microsoft came under fire for antitrust transgressions. If the House succeeds to persuade lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, Big Tech will have to contend with some serious overhaul. But the likelihood of that remains dubious as Republicans have already distanced themselves from their Democratic peers, calling the solutions too "nuclear" to adopt.