Biden Assembles the Final Member of His Big Tech Nightmare Squad

If approved, attorney Jonathan Kanter would join FTC Chair Lina Khan and White House adviser Tim Wu as part of Biden's team of antitrust experts.

Joe Biden wearing sunglasses
Photo: Jessica Hill (AP)

President Joe Biden has selected attorney and frequent critic of Google parent company Alphabet to lead the United States Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, the White House announced Tuesday. If approved, Kanter would join the Biden administration’s robust legal team that’s poised to combat Silicon Valley’s enormous market power.

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As head of the DOJ Antitrust Division, Kanter would oversee department antitrust lawsuits and have the power to help block mergers deemed anticompetitive. This would include a case the DOJ brought against Google in October over its domination in the digital ad market, as well as a probe into Apple’s App Store policies.

While Congress remains bitterly partisan, Kanter’s nomination is reportedly seen as a wise move, as he’s considered a favorite among both progressives and some conservatives who believe tech giants have amassed too much power.

“Jonathan Kanter is a distinguished antitrust lawyer with over 20 years of experience,” the White House said in a press release. “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.”

Kanter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kanter’s nomination rounds out the Biden administration’s slate of top antitrust officials. Chief among them is Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan, a Columbia Law School professor who, prior to joining the FTC, criticized Amazon for what she deemed anticompetitive practices. Her earlier work prompted both Amazon and Facebook to demand that she recuse herself from any cases involving either company on the basis that she is biased against them. A third Biden administration figure, Tim Wu—who also worked as a law professor at Columbia and is known as a critic of Big Tech—currently serves as a special assistant to the president overseeing technology and competition policy at the National Economic Council.

Previously the co-chair of antitrust practices at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, one of the largest law firms in the U.S., Kanter recently co-founded his own firm, the Kanter Law Group, which specializes in antitrust cases. According to Politico, Kanter previously represented companies that sought antitrust action against Google, including Yelp and Microsoft. The choice represents a stark contrast to Makan Delrahim—the Trump administration’s selection for the job in 2017—who worked in private law defending monopolies against antitrust action before joining the DOJ.

In addition to naming Big Tech critics to key positions in his administration, Biden recently signed a sweeping executive order that directly targets major tech firms like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Among the 72 initiatives laid out in the executive order are directives to reign in data collection, which serves as the lifeblood of many major tech firms; expand right-to-repair for electronics Americans purchase; limit price-gouging by internet service providers, and a restoration of Federal Communications Commission policies protecting net neutrality—a term, incidentally, that Wu coined.

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“Let me be very clear: Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation,” Biden said earlier this month while announcing the executive order. “Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want and treat you however they want. And for too many Americans that means accepting a bad deal for things you can’t go without. So, we know we’ve got a problem, a major problem. But we also have an incredible opportunity.”

DISCUSSION

By
The Ja Rule of Kinja

Me, on Team “You can’t have it all”:
Well at least we have The Education Department Dream Team.”

Also me on Team Cynical: “Yeah, but they are just there to get ground down by the system to fail at delivering what most Americans want, so that those Americans can say, ‘Well if they couldn’t get it done maybe it can’t be done’, when the Administration fails to cancel all student debt.”