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To Rein In Big Tech, Europe Looked Beyond Lawsuits. Will the U.S. Follow?

 |  December 12, 2022

By Steve Lohr, The New York Times.

The largest American banks are classified as “systemically important” and subject to more stringent scrutiny. Some lawmakers want to do the same for Big Tech.

The Biden administration has made reining in big tech companies a priority. Perhaps the strongest signal was the government’s pick for the top antitrust enforcers: Jonathan Kanter, head of the antitrust division at the Justice Department, and Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission.

Both are progressives who want to toughen enforcement and stretch antitrust doctrine. Under Ms. Khan, the F.T.C. has aggressively challenged acquisitions — a quick-strike tool in the antitrust arsenal to prevent the tech industry’s giants from getter bigger.

On Thursday, the agency filed suit to block Microsoft’s $69 billion purchase of video game maker Activision Blizzard, which would be the largest technology deal in decades. And on the same day, it deployed a novel argument to stop a relatively tiny acquisition by Meta, arguing in a California court that the $400 million deal by Facebook’s parent company would harm future competition in the emerging market for virtual reality apps.

Stopping a corporate purchase is one thing. But the larger agenda for the Biden administration’s antitrust enforcers involves major cases that accuse Big Tech of being bullying monopolists. Those cases involve long periods of document collection, deposition taking and courtroom wrangling.

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