Biden to sign executive order aimed at Big Tech crackdown

The White House on Friday unveiled a new executive order aimed at reeling in Big Tech and protecting competition across a variety of industries, including agriculture and banking.

In a fact sheet outlining the sweeping order, which includes 72 actions and recommendations that involve a dozen federal agencies, the administration said it seeks to “reduce the trend of corporate consolidation, increase competition, and deliver concrete benefits to America’s consumers, workers, farmers, and small businesses.”

The order seeks to lower prescription drug prices, allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter, ban or limit the use of non-compete agreements and more.

“The impulse for this executive order is really around where can we encourage greater competition across the board,” White House chief economic adviser Brian Deese told CNBC.

In the fact sheet, the administration also argued that the biggest companies in the tech sector are using their power to exploit consumers’ personal information and stifle competition.

Big tech protest
The order seeks to lower prescription drug prices, allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter and more.
REUTERS

The order will task regulators with enacting reforms to increase scrutiny of deals in the sector with a focus on moves like so-called killer acquisitions, in which companies buy smaller brands to stop them before they become competition.

The executive order will also call on the Federal Trade Commission to craft new rules on internet marketplaces, and target data collection and user surveillance practices. It will also encourage the FTC to issue rules that allow customers to repair products themselves or at independent servicers.

Those platforms have “created significant problems,” Deese said.

That includes “problems for users in terms of privacy and security” and “problems for small businesses in terms of entering markets,” he added.

Tech giants like Facebook, Apple, Google and Microsoft have seen their market caps balloon in recent years. Both Apple and Microsoft are valued above $2 trillion and Google is not far off. Facebook boasts a market cap of about $986 billion.

The companies have drawn scrutiny from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as in other countries, who question how the firms wield their power to protect their market dominance.

Others, including former President Donald Trump, have attacked Facebook, Google and Twitter for using their massive social media platforms to control public discourse.

Earlier this week, Trump, who was kicked off Twitter, Facebook and Google-owned YouTube earlier this year, sued those three companies and their chief executives for allegedly violating Americans’ First Amendment rights by blocking some users from the platforms.

Big tech
The executive order will also call on the Federal Trade Commission to craft new rules on internet marketplaces.
AFP via Getty Images

Biden’s expected executive order also comes just a few weeks after the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance six antitrust bills that could force big tech companies to overhaul or even break up their businesses.

The bills, however, have so far faced substantial pushback from critics who say they either don’t do enough to reel in big tech companies or that they’ll have unintended consequences.

US President Joe Biden
The Biden administration argued that the biggest companies in the tech sector are using their power to exploit consumers’ personal information and stifle competition.The Washington Post via Getty Im