Khan has said she’s willing to use the FTC’s existing statute to enforce rules on what many believe is an unregulated sector that Big Tech companies are taking advantage of.
- On Tuesday, June 15, Lina Khan was sworn in as the chair of the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In something of a surprise, 21 Republicans voted for her confirmation in a rare show of bipartisanship in today’s Senate.
- By getting the support of both Democrats and Republicans, Khan has shown that members of Congress and the Biden administration have a big appetite to take on Big Tech monopolies.
- Khan has said she’s willing to use the FTC’s existing statute to enforce rules on what many believe is an unregulated sector that Big Tech companies are taking advantage of.
Who is Lina Khan?
- At 32, Khan is the youngest person to ever chair the FTC. Both her age and experience came under scrutiny by Republicans.
- Before heading the FTC, Khan was an Associate Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. Her focus there was “antitrust law, infrastructure industries law, the antimonopoly tradition, and law and political economy.”
- During her time at Columbia, she published multiple articles addressing antitrust issues. For example, in her article “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” Khan argued that Amazon’s business strategy – investing profit into growth and dominating economic markets – leaves little space in the market for other companies.
- Khan believes the federal government needs to write better laws and to better enforce existing laws in order to combat the methods that Big Tech uses to outprice and buy out competition. It’s because of these methods that a company like Amazon can come to so thoroughly monopolize certain industries.
- Khan was previously a legal adviser to Commissioner Rohit Chopra, another member of the FTC and Biden’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
What’s the role of the Federal Trade Commission anyway?
- So, officially, the FTC’s goal is to “protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices in the marketplace.”
- The FTC was created in 1914 to prevent “unfair methods of competition in commerce,” but how well the commission has actually been doing that has come under question now that several companies have gained monopolies in what is an ever-evolving economic marketplace.
- Khan and many like her believe that the only way to prevent these companies from becoming monopolies is to expand the FTC’s role in rule making.
- After her confirmation, Khan tweeted, “Congress created the FTC to safeguard fair competition and protect consumers, workers, and honest businesses from unfair & deceptive practices.”
- Because Democrats now have a 3-2 majority on the board of the FTC, they’ll likely be able to push through new rules and new interpretations of old rules that some Republicans have resisted in the past.
What are politicians and those in Big Tech saying?
- While some Republicans blasted Khan’s last-minute nomination for the chair, the bipartisan nature of her confirmation shows both parties appreciate how important putting a check on Big Tech companies is.
- Progressive Democrats are, for the most part, really happy with this news. Take Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as an example. In the 2020 presidential primary, Warren promised to split up companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon that she fears have too much power.
- In a press release, Warren praised the impact Khan would have. “With Chair Khan at the helm,” Warren said, “we have a huge opportunity to make big, structural change by reviving antitrust enforcement and fighting monopolies that threaten our economy, our society, and our democracy."
- In a sign that Big Tech may not be quite as happy, Big Tech NetChoice, a lobbying group that represents Google and Facebook, warned that Khan’s confirmation would politicalize the FTC.
- “She is more interested in subjectively changing antitrust law than in analyzing and enforcing the law as it stands,” said NetChoice Vice President Carl Szabo. “Ms. Khan would move the FTC away from its role as an impartial body that enforces the law toward becoming a tool for progressive activists to change the law.”
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