Proposed Bill Wants Tech Companies To Pay Out the Nose if DOJ Inquiry Uncovers Antitrust Violations

Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks during a forum for presidential candidates in Des Moines, Iowa on July 15.
Image: Charlie Neibergall (AP)

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal proposed antitrust legislation Friday that, if passed, could give the Justice Department’s recently launched probe into monopoly concerns among big tech companies some serious teeth if any violations come to light.

The two Democrats call it the “Monopolization Deterrence Act,” Reuters reported. This legislation would grant the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission the ability to levy civil penalties when companies break antitrust law, up to 15 percent of the company’s total U.S. revenue or 30 percent of its U.S. revenue in affected markets.

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Certain companies have grown so powerful that the fear of earning an injunction for monopolization offenses no longer works as a successful deterrent, prompting the need for “serious financial consequences,” Klobuchar, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for next year’s presidential election, said in a statement about the bill on her website.

“Our legislation would empower our antitrust watchdogs with new tools to deter monopolization of market power and hold bad actors accountable,” Blumenthal said in an emailed statement to Gizmodo. “American consumers and workers are being crushed by corporate consolidation, and our outdated laws have failed to keep pace with our modern economy.”

Whether the bill specifically names Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, or any other companies involved in the Justice Department’s probe, they seem like likely targets of this legislation given its timing. Klobuchar also previously headed efforts in June to provide Congress with more details about these investigations before they launched, according to her office’s statement.

As part of its review, the Justice Department plans to analyze how these big tech companies have secured their market power and whether their practices have “reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers,” per a DOJ statement.

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The move comes just weeks after the FTC hit Facebook with a $5 billion fine in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which breached roughly 87 million Facebook users’ personal data. Considering the company made $15.08 billion in revenue in this year’s first quarter alone, Democrats at the time said the commission “failed miserably” in its ruling. While privacy violations and antitrust violations are two entirely different beasts, the way this new bill specifies possible fines as a proportion of a company’s earnings could very well be in response to their dissatisfaction with how the FTC’s handled punishing the big tech company previously.

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About the author

Alyse Stanley

Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance video game reporter. Full-time disaster bi.