Big Tech M&A Regulation Looms in 2022

Big Tech companies have been in the spotlight for most of 2022, from antitrust concerns to allegations of harmful content in their platforms or violations of freedom of speech. But in addition to the enforcement actions taken by regulators, the most notorious development in the first half of 2022 is the new laws adopted or to be adopted in many countries that will affect online platforms. 

While the legislative activity in Europe on Big Tech will likely slow down after the adoption of landmark legislation, new rules in the U.S. and the U.K. are a distinct possibility in the months to come. 

United States 

U.S. lawmakers have introduced two bills that can affect the business models of the major Big Tech firms, the American Innovation and Choice Act and the Open App Markets Act. Both bills passed the Senate Judiciary Committee vote in March and are waiting for a vote on the Senate floor. 

Proponents of the bills have been trying to get the necessary support, 60 votes, before putting the bill for a vote in the Senate. Most of the media attention has focused on the American Innovation and Choice Act, suggesting that the Open App Markets Act may need to wait a few months before going to a full Senate vote. 

Some lawmakers have warned that if the first bill is not voted on before the summer recess in August, it risks not being voted on, as the campaign for the mid-term elections will kick off and it would be more difficult to get the votes. 

Outside Capitol hill, another important regulatory development for Big Tech is the adoption of the new horizontal merger guidelines. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice are working on these new guidelines that will likely make it harder for Big Tech companies to acquire startups. The new rules will also give more power to regulators to investigate any merger where Big Tech firms are involved.  The federal agencies have previously said they are planning to have the new guidelines ready by the end of the year. 

Read more: Senate May Delay Antitrust Bill Aimed at Amazon, Google, Apple, Meta 

See also: FTC, DOJ to Overhaul Merger Guidelines 


United Kingdom 

The U.K.’s biggest attempt to rein in Big Tech, the Online Safety Bill, was recently put on hold for at least several weeks. 

The legislation is designed to make Big Tech companies such as Twitter, Google and Facebook stamp out harmful content, whether that means abusive comments, child pornography, terrorist materials or threats of violence. The bill was scheduled to be debated last week, but lawmakers have postponed the debate until September. Despite this delay, the bill is likely to be debated and voted on in the next few months as this legislation is one of the priorities for this government.  

Another initiative that could have affected Big Tech companies, but has been delayed at least for a year, is the creation of the Digital Markets Unit and a new competition law regime. Initially foreseen to be part of the parliamentary session that runs from May to April, the government decided at the last minute to leave this initiative out. Although it was included as draft legislation, the chances of having this new regime in the following months are slim. 

Read more: UK Online Safety Bill Put on Hold 

European Union 

The EU recently passed two landmark legislations, the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act, which will impose obligations on Big Tech companies about how to display search results and products, impose interoperability or control the content that is posted online. In the next months, the EU will start with the implementation of these laws, and the most imminent risk for some of these companies is that the regulator could start with the procedure to define them as “gatekeepers.” This would make them automatically subject to new obligations and prohibitions. 

Another legislation that will affect Big Tech is the Artificial Intelligence Act. The EU parliament recently adopted a draft negotiating position, but it is still far from reaching a consensus with the other institutions involved, the EU Council. Thus, in the next few months, it is possible that the parties get close to an agreement, but a new law isn’t likely in 2022. 

Read on: New EU Council President Prioritizes AI, Chips, Digital Identity Legislation 


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