Biden Executive Order Urges Scrutiny of Big Tech M&A, Restoring Net Neutrality Rules

President Biden is signing an executive order Friday urging federal agencies to more aggressively police conduct by Big Tech — including to more closely review acquisitions that thwart competition. The action comes amid a growing backlash by lawmakers and regulators against huge tech firms.

Biden’s order doesn’t name the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon or Apple but the White House says it addresses “areas in which dominant tech firms are undermining competition and reducing innovation,” including M&A, data collection and the “right to repair” devices.

The order, “Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” isn’t just aimed at Big Tech. The sweeping set of recommendations also includes provisions targeted at internet service providers — including an official call to restore net neutrality rules repealed under Trump — as well as healthcare, agriculture, transportation, and banking and consumer Finance.

All told, Biden’s executive order includes 72 initiatives directed at more than a dozen federal agencies to “promptly tackle some of the most pressing competition problems across our economy,” according to a White House press release.

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Relating to Big Tech, the order establishes a policy by the Biden administration of “greater scrutiny of mergers, especially by dominant internet platforms, with particular attention to the acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by ‘free’ products, and the effect on user privacy.”

Biden’s order also asserts that “Big Tech platforms gathering too much personal information” and directs the FTC to establish rules on surveillance and the accumulation of data.

The order encourages the FTC to “establish rules barring unfair methods of competition on internet marketplaces,” according to the White House, arguing that “The large platforms’ power gives them unfair opportunities to get a leg up on the small businesses that rely on them to reach customers.”

Citing smartphone makers that prevent “independent repair shops” from fixing damaged devices, the order “Encourages the FTC to issue rules against anticompetitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment,” per the White House.

In addition, Biden’s order officially “encourages” the FCC to restore net neutrality rules, which were overturned by the Trump Administration.

Biden’s executive order looking to rein Big Tech’s power comes after a federal judge last month dismissed antitrust lawsuits filed against Facebook by the FTC and more than 40 state attorneys general. The suits, which had sought to unwind Facebook’s deals for Instagram and WhatsApp, failed to establish that the social media giant holds a monopoly, per the ruling.

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