Tuesday, the Biden administration tripled down on its commitment to reining in powerful tech companies, proposing committed Big Tech critic Jonathan Kanter to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
Kanter is a lawyer with a long track record representing smaller companies like Yelp in antitrust cases against Google. He currently practices law at his own firm, specializing in state and federal antitrust enforcement advocacy.
“Throughout his career, Kanter has also been a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy,” the White House press release stated. Progressives celebrated the nomination as a win, though some of Biden’s new antitrust hawks have enjoyed support from both political parties.
The Justice Department already has a major antitrust suit against Google in the works. The lawsuit, filed by Trump’s own Justice Department, accuses the company of “unlawfully maintaining monopolies” through anti-competitive practices in its search and search advertising businesses. If successfully confirmed, Kanter would be positioned to steer the DOJ’s big case against Google.
In a 2016 NYT op-ed, Kanter argued that Google is notorious for relying on an anti-competitive “playbook” to maintain its market dominance. Kanter pointed to Google’s long history of releasing free ad-supported products and eventually restricting competition through “discriminatory and exclusionary practices” in a given corner of the market.
Kanter is just the latest high-profile Big Tech critic elevated to a significant regulatory role under Biden. Last month, Biden named fierce Amazon critic Lina Khan as FTC chair upon her confirmation to the agency. In March, Biden called another noted Big Tech critic, Columbia law professor Tim Wu, to the National Economic Council as a special assistant for tech and competition policy.
All signs point to the Biden White House gearing up for a significant federal fight with Big Tech. Congress is working on a set of Big Tech bills, but instead of — or in tandem with — legislative reform, the White House can flex its own regulatory muscle through the FTC and DOJ.
In new comments to MSNBC, the White House confirmed that it is also “reviewing” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a rich snippet of law protecting platforms from liability for user-generated content.