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WSJ Tech Conference Shows Bipartisan Agreement On Curbing Big Tech

 |  October 19, 2020

At the Wall Street Journal’s virtual conference, both Democrats and Republicans commented on believing that tech companies have too much power, and thus antitrust authorities should move to curb it.

Where they disagree, however, is exactly how to rein in the companies, especially when it comes to regulating perceptions of political bias on the platforms. 

Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri both called for stronger antitrust enforcement and privacy protections for users of technology products during a panel discussion Monday, October 19, at the WSJ Tech Live conference

Sen. Hawley said authorities should bring an antitrust case against Google-parent Alphabet and probably Facebook. He also urged reform of the Federal Trade Commission to strengthen its enforcement of antitrust rules.

Rep. Cicilline agreed that laws and federal agencies needed to be modernized to give the government new-enforcement capabilities. “What we really want is antitrust enforcement that brings real competition back into the marketplace,” he said.

Even as they agreed on the power tech companies wield, the two lawmakers disagreed on the question of conservative bias. 

Sen. Hawley said that Facebook’s actions last week to throttle a New York Post article based on email messages allegedly taken from the laptop of Joe Bidens’ son, Hunter Biden, amounted to an abuse of monopoly power. “I believe in a free press and when you have a monopoly on Facebook that is attempting to stop the distribution of the news, we have a problem,” he said.

Rep. Cicilline disputed the idea that Facebook was biased against conservatives, saying that conservative voices are regularly among the most dominant on the platform. “If there’s a conservative bias on this platform, they’re doing a pretty lousy job,” he said. 

But the two lawmakers did agree that privacy protections was an area where the US government could push back on tech companies power. “Consumers ought to have more control over their data,” Mr. Hawley said.