Biden is stacking his administration with antitrust activists, signaling his intent to crack down on Big Tech

Biden
President Joe Biden waves to journalists before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, February 26, 2021. Tom Brenner/Reuters
  • Biden will nominate a leading antitrust lawyer to the Federal Trade Commission, per Politico.
  • He also recently hired another antitrust activist to serve as a White House economic advisor.
  • These moves signal Biden’s aggressive stance against tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden is poised to nominate Lina Khan, a top antitrust lawyer, to the Federal Trade Commission, Politico’s Playbook reported Tuesday.

The decision is a sign of Biden’s aggressive stance against tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, who have long drawn criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Democrats accuse them of throttling competition in the marketplace and perpetuating the spread of disinformation. And Republicans accuse Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms of unfairly censoring conservative viewpoints, though there is no evidence for this claim.

According to Politico, an FBI agent called Khan’s associates this week as part of a final background check before Biden formally nominates her to the FTC.

The report noted that Biden’s decision to tap Khan and hire antitrust activist Tim Wu as a White House economic advisor indicates his intent to move away from the Obama administration’s coziness with the tech industry.

Khan currently works as an associate law professor at Columbia University. According to her biography, she previously worked as counsel to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. In that role, Khan assisted the panel with its investigation into Google’s conduct and helped publish its final report. Before that, she was a fellow at the FTC.

And Wu, who works in the National Economic Council’s technology and competition division, is a longtime advocate for net neutrality with a history of criticizing big tech. He wrote the 2018 book, “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.”

The tech industry came under particularly sharp scrutiny under the Trump administration, after then-President Donald Trump accused Twitter of violating the right to free and open speech by adding fact-check labels to his tweets.

Last May, Trump signed an executive order calling for tech companies to lose their Section 230 protection if they did anything to discriminate against users, restricted their access to a platform without giving them a fair hearing, or took other action that wasn’t in line with their terms of service.

“As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the Internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our businesses, our newspapers and our homes,” the executive order said. “In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand-pick the speech that Americans may access and convey online.”

However, legal and tech policy experts told Business Insider the executive order was largely symbolic and dead on arrival.

“This is not how the Constitution works,” said Ashkhen Kazaryan, director of civil liberties at the libertarian think tank TechFreedom. “The First Amendment protects Twitter from Trump. It does not protect Trump from Twitter.”

In October, meanwhile, the Justice Department under the Trump administration filed a landmark antitrust lawsuit against Google accusing the search giant of kneecapping competitors by striking exclusionary business deals. And two months later, 10 US states – Texas, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah – filed another antitrust lawsuit against Google over its ad practices.

Ashley Gold contributed to this report.