The Senate voted to appoint Lina Khan, an expert on antitrust law and a leading critic of Big Tech power, to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The vote was 68 for and 28 against, representing an astonishing level of bipartisanship in a heavily polarized and Democratic-controlled Senate.
More importantly, the news came later on Tuesday afternoon that Khan will be the chairman of the FTC. During an afternoon hearing focused on smart home speakers and competitiveness, Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that Khan would take on the lead role of the FTC. A source close to the White House plans confirmed the news, and Senator Elizabeth Warren popular Khan’s appointment in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
Khan’s appointment as President of the FTC indicates that, under President Biden, the FTC is likely to become more critical and aggressive in regulating the digital markets created by tech giants. At 32, Khan is also the youngest person ever join – and lead – the FTC.
Khan’s confirmation also highlights the growing number of Big Tech reviews join the Biden administration and push Washington to change its approach to big tech companies. It’s also further evidence of the growing consensus among Republicans and Democrats that companies like Google and Amazon have grown too powerful. Just days before Khan’s confirmation, House Democrats announced a series of antitrust bills designed to curb the dominance of big tech companies, all of which have Republican co-sponsors.
Taken together, all of these developments seem consistent with the country’s position: Polls indicate that most Americans thinks big tech companies should be dismantled.
“I think it is clear that in some cases the agencies have taken a bit of time to catch up with the underlying business realities and the empirical realities of how these markets work,” Khan told senators during his speech. confirmation of charges hearing in April. “At the very least, it will be important to ensure that the agencies do everything possible to keep pace. ”
During the confirmation of charges hearing, Khan also highlighted the need for regulators to understand black box algorithms and the knowledge gaps between lawmakers and big tech companies, which hold huge treasures of data.
Khan first became widely known for her 2017 article, “Amazon’s antitrust paradox”, Which found that current antitrust laws were unable to address the damage caused by dominant platforms and focused specifically on Amazon. Prior to his appointment, Khan helped set up the House Antitrust Report, published last year, which revealed that Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon had engaged in anti-competitive behavior. The report also determined that Congress should pass new antitrust legislation.
Recode reported In January, Khan was one of the top contenders for an FTC nomination. Prior to his confirmation, Khan had received a wide range of support from liberals and progressives. Earlier this year, Senator Elizabeth Warren called Khan the “leading intellectual force in the modern antitrust movement,” and his appointment was supported by small-business advocates and consumer protection groups. Khan also appeared to be somewhat popular with Tories, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) saying during his confirmation hearing, “I look forward to working with you.” But his appointment as head of the agency came as a surprise on Tuesday.
Khan will be one of five voting members of the FTC, a government agency whose broad powers include the enforcement of consumer protection laws, merger supervision, and the prosecution of companies for anti-competitive behavior. As commissioner, she can serve a term of up to seven years.
It remains to be seen exactly how the FTC might change with Khan on board. But his joining the agency just as Congress embarks on antitrust reform appears to signal problems on the horizon for Big Tech. It is not yet clear what cases Khan will be presented with – or how she will vote – but all the signs indicate that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google should be concerned.
Update, June 15, 4 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to note that Lina Khan has also been named the next FTC President.