The antitrust boom is coming
Good morning! This Thursday, Lina Khan laid out her vision for how antitrust enforcement needs to change. I’m Issie Lapowsky, and I need tips for using Peloton without injuring my lower back.
What Lina Khan wants
Lina Khan fired a warning shot at corporate giants yesterday in her first televised interview since becoming chair of the FTC last year.
“These are enormously well resourced companies. They are not shy about deploying those resources. And I think in these moments, it's important to ensure we're really showing these companies, but also showing the country, that enforcers are not going to back down,” Khan said.
Over the course of a lengthy CNBC interview, Khan articulated perhaps the clearest vision yet of how she believes antitrust enforcement in America needs to change.
That process of change is already underway at the FTC. This week, Khan and Jonathan Kanter announced a plan to review policies related to mergers.
- That might sound like a bureaucratic blip, but in reality, changing those policies is the first step toward the FTC and DOJ scrutinizing a whole bunch of deals that once flew under the radar.
- "The project of potentially revising the guidelines is to basically identify: What are the blind spots right now?" Khan said during the interview.
And there’s more to antitrust than pricing. Antitrust law, she said (and has often said), has tended to focus too much on whether companies are using their market power to raise prices on consumers. But there are lots of other kinds of harm, Khan argued.
- One example Khan kept returning to is the idea that even free services can abuse their dominance by exploiting user privacy.
- Khan pointed to the FTC's recently amended case against Facebook (now Meta) as evidence of that approach, because the complaint points to all of the other ways Facebook can harm users without ever charging them a penny.
- The intersection between antitrust and privacy will almost certainly be a theme of Khan’s tenure. Fun fact: Before she became chair, Khan wrote a paper likening unchecked data collection to environmental pollution and comparing social media executives to used-car salesmen.
But Khan also has a problem: Even as this new approach potentially broadens the scope of enforcement actions the FTC could take, Khan noted that the commission is “severely under-resourced.” That means that the FTC will continue to have to prioritize certain cases over others.
- Khan said cases that stand to have a deterrence effect or an impact on a broader market beyond a single company will be a top priority.
- So will cases involving "intermediaries or companies that may be facilitating bad practices going upstream," Khan said.
- Khan also noted that the FTC is paying special attention to big companies trying to navigate “transition” moments — like, say, the transition to mobile or the metaverse — by gobbling up competitors. “Whenever you see potential moments of transition, that's when enforcers need to be especially vigilant,” Khan said.
Still, the FTC isn’t in this alone. The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to mark up two of its marquee antitrust bills today.
- The first, The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley, would prevent tech platforms from boosting their own products on those platforms.
- The second, the Open App Markets Act, would give app developers more autonomy in dealing with app stores, including in choosing their own payment systems.
Khan said during the interview that she was encouraged by the steps Congress is taking. “I think it's especially great to see how there's so much bipartisan interest and concern,” she said. “I think that really speaks to the degree to which there's a growing recognition that there's just a deep problem.”
This story first appeared on Protocol.com. Read it here.
On the calendar
How to build the metaverse, and build it right
The metaverse is ... well, we’re not exactly sure what it is yet. But no matter what it is, it’s clear that much of tech’s energy, brainpower and money are going toward building it.
Join Protocol Entertainment's Janko Roettgers and Nick Statt, along with a panel of experts, at 10 a.m. PT Tuesday where they'll explore what the metaverse could be, what it'll take to build it the right way and what it actually means for your industry. RSVP here.
A MESSAGE FROM HONEYWELL
Emerging technologies and changing needs of consumers and commercial organizations are creating significant challenges and opportunities for all enterprises. These challenges and opportunities will require companies to act quickly, creatively and with an appetite and a push for rapid adoption of new technologies.
People are talking
Philip Rosedale may have founded Second Life, but he's skeptical about the state of the metaverse:
- “We're just not there yet. The experience of communicating face to face as avatars is missing components.”
And former PlayStation exec Ken Kutaragi is even less excited about the prospect:
- "Being in the real world is very important, but the metaverse is about making quasi-real in the virtual world, and I can’t see the point of doing it."
Meet Dan Space, whose TikTok account aims to make sure people get good job advice:
- “My driving force is I don’t want people to have this bad information.”
Gamers like Drew Bienusa think Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision is a good step forward:
- “It’s almost at a point where it can’t get worse.”
Joe Earley is Hulu’s new president. Earley was most recently the executive VP of marketing and operations at Disney+.
Rebecca Campbell will lead a new Disney unit focused on international content creation. Michael Paull, another Disney leader, moved up to be president of Disney Streaming.
Arnold Goldberg is joining Google to lead its payments unit. Arnold last worked at PayPal as chief product architect and GM.
Jason Myles Clark is Tech:NYC’s next executive director. He was previously a partner at Hamilton Clarke.
Matt McLaughlin is stepping down this summer as DoubleVerify’s COO. He’s been in the role for over a decade.
Adriana Gil Miner is heading to Iterable as CMO. Gil Miner has worked as a marketing leader at Qumulo and Tableau.
In other news
Activision Blizzard’s workplace disaster led to Microsoft’s acquisition. As employees continued to lose faith in Bobby Kotick’s leadership at Activision, Xbox’s Phil Spencer apparently began negotiating with Kotick about an acquisition.
Some planes can land in areas with a new 5G service. The FAA announced that some U.S. planes can perform “low-visibility landings” in areas where the 5G network was rolled out.
Amazon is opening a clothing store. A brick-and-mortar one, at that, called Amazon Style. It's planning to use the store as a showcase, and have people do all the buying on their phones.
Instagram wants people to pay for creator content. The platform is trying out creator subscriptions that would let a select number of creators offer paid content.
Peloton’s finances have seen better days. Company insiders sold almost $500 million worth of their stock before Peloton’s shares dropped, according to SEC filings reviewed by CNBC.
Meanwhile, startups are making bank. Hundreds of startups are each worth over $1 billion today, which would have been bonkers years ago, as the pandemic and other tech breakthroughs help these companies get more funding.
Crypto.com’s security breach affected hundreds of accounts. The exchange said it quickly stopped unauthorized withdrawals, and all compromised accounts got their money back.
You can get into your online IRS account after you take a selfie. The agency said that once this launches in the summer, people will only be able to log in to irs.gov through an online identity verification service and live video feed of their faces.
What’s your favorite tech film?
There’s going to be a lot of talk about tech movies and shows this year. Yesterday Apple TV+ released a trailer for a new WeWork-based series, called “WeCrashed,” which comes out in March. Hulu and Apple TV+’s renditions of the Theranos fallout are bound to get attention, and a film about Uber is coming out soon. But before all that launches, we want to hear about a tech show, documentary or movie that you already love.
Have you watched “Halt and Catch Fire” again and again? Are you not into docs, but you swear “Black Mirror” is getting closer and closer to reality? Respond to this email and tell us what you think, and Protocol’s David Pierce will include some of the best picks in the Sunday edition of Source Code.
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