The Justice Department’s antitrust chief wants to ‘take down’ technology monopolies

The Justice Department’s top antitrust police officer said he wants to “crack down” on monopolistic Big Tech companies and drove his support for a stalled congressional bill in a fiery speech Friday against Google, Amazon, Meta and Apple.

U.S. regulators have previously taken a “whack-a-mole” approach to the monopolistic behavior of big tech companies, said Jonathan Cantor, a Biden-appointed assistant general who heads the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

“Nobody’s ever really won that game — the hits just keep coming,” Kanter said. “You need to dismantle the machine to stop them from rising to the top. Similarly, executives need to dismantle the monopoly machine in the digital platform industries.”

Speaking at Fordham University’s International Law and Policy Conference in Manhattan, he called for US antitrust regulators to take a more aggressive approach to enforcing existing laws.

“The digital economy has enabled monopoly power,” Kanter said in front of an audience at Fordham Law School, which included many lawyers at Fordham Law School who defend tech companies from regulators like him.

Speaking at the conference on Friday, FTC Chairwoman Lena Kahn called antitrust legislation “very healthy progress” in Congress.
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A bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in January by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) would bar big tech companies from favoring their products over their competitors in search results. . For example, Amazon is not allowed to favor its Amazon Basic products over its competitors.

Kanter, who did not name companies but spoke generally about Big Tech, reiterated the Justice Department’s support for the American Creativity and Choice Online Act, which remains standing in Congress.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he supports the legislation but has not brought it up for a vote, although Klobuchar and Grassley have said they have votes for months. Big Tech enemies accuse Schumer of holding the bill, but Schumer says he’s waiting until he gets enough votes.

Before joining the Justice Department in July 2021, Cantor represented Google rivals and critics Microsoft, Yelp and New York Post parent company News Corp.

Before Kanter’s speech, he greeted EU Competition Commissioner Margette Vestager with a kiss on the cheek.

Vesteger spoke at the conference after his landmark victory against Google, when the European Court of Justice rejected the search giant’s appeal of a record-breaking $4 billion fine for limiting consumer choice by dominating the Android mobile operating system.

Two other senior Biden administration antitrust officials spoke on Friday.

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lena Kahn called antitrust legislation in Congress “very healthy progress,” and White House economic adviser Tim Wu called on lawmakers to better fund the FTC and Justice Department.

“The agencies are engaged in highly complex, resource-intensive, expert-intensive litigation that drains their pockets,” he said.

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