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Major tech antitrust bill gets backing of US Commerce Department

By Brian Fung, CNN Business

The Commerce Department backed a key legislative proposal aimed at forcing tech giants such as Facebook and Google to compete against smaller businesses, agency secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday, in an announcement that throws the full weight of the Biden administration behind the bill.

Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee, Raimondo applauded efforts by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. David Cicilline to champion the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), a bill that would prohibit tech platforms from unfairly favoring their own proprietary services on their platforms over those of competing businesses.

“[I] clearly agree that we need to improve competition, which increases innovation,” Raimondo said. “Last month, the [Justice Department] released a views letter on behalf of the administration in support of the [AICOA] and the department and I certainly support that and concur with the aim of the legislation and the views expressed in that views letter.”

Last month’s DOJ letter said the agency “views the rise of dominant platforms as presenting a threat to open markets and competition,” adding that letting those platforms “pick winners and losers” with their outsized power “puts at risk the nation’s economic progress and prosperity, ultimately threatening the economic liberty that undergirds our democracy.”

DOJ antitrust officials are currently suing Google for allegedly abusing its dominance in the search and search advertising markets. At the time of the letter, policy analysts said the DOJ note increases the odds of the AICOA passing.

Raimondo’s endorsement could provide a further boost to the legislation as US lawmakers seek to follow in the footsteps of the European Union. In the past month, the EU has approved two sweeping legislative proposals to regulate social media and competition in technology markets.

Under the proposed US legislation, Apple could have to allow iPhone users to install apps from non-official app stores, while companies such as Google could have to change how they display search results. The tech industry has argued against the bill, saying it could undermine user security and result in worse experiences for consumers.

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