Focusing on Enforcement to Hold Big Tech Accountable

Tech Policy Press

By Jonathon Hauenschild and Luke Hogg

With the August recess approaching and the November elections looming, the window is rapidly closing for the current Congress to enact legislation updating antitrust laws to hold big technology companies accountable. That could be good news for American consumers, since the flagship bill under consideration in the Senate might force tech firms to address its ambiguity by ending access to products and services many people use. Even if the issue is kicked to the next Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can still work together now to promote a more competitive tech ecosystem by providing much-needed resources to enforcement agencies.

The two primary agencies charged with competition policy and antitrust enforcement are the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (DOJ-ATR) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Over the past few decades, these agencies have been asked to do more with less, especially when it comes to resource-intensive and highly-technical cases in the tech sector (e.g., the investigations into Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook). 

Even as demands have increased, the budget authorities for these agencies have remained relatively flat. Adjusting for inflation, appropriations for both agencies have fallen. The lack of funding has led to stagnation in both employment and enforcement. The FTC and DOJ simply do not have the resources to pursue every potential antitrust violation, forcing them to pick and choose cases.

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