A group of US lawmakers has put forward a sweeping legislative package that could curb the market power of Big Tech companies and force Facebook, Google, Amazon or Apple to sever their dominant platforms from their other lines of business.
According to reports, the five antitrust laws proposed in the United States if enacted could have serious effects on how people use the Internet and also have far-reaching effects on America's biggest companies - Facebook, Google, Amazon or Apple. The five bills could pave the way for a reorganisation or breakup of giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon while reshaping the entire internet ecosystem.
The bipartisan proposals put forward are the culmination of a 15-month investigation by the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, led by Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island.
It concluded that the four tech giants have abused their market power by charging excessive fees, imposing tough contract terms and extracting valuable data from individuals and businesses that rely on them.
"Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy," Cicilline said in a statement.
"They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers and put folks out of work. Our agenda will level the playing field and ensure the wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us," Cicilline added.
The proposed legislation targets the structure of the companies and could break them up, a radical step for Congress to take toward a powerful industry. The tech giants for decades have enjoyed light-touch regulation and star status in Washington, but have come under intensifying scrutiny and derision over issues of competition, consumer privacy and hate speech.
Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, the senior Republican on the anti-trust panel, is pushing the legislation with Cicilline. Many Republican lawmakers denounce the market dominance of Big Tech but don't support a wholesale revamp of the antitrust laws.
The proposals also would prohibit big tech companies from favouring their own products and services over competitors on their platforms.
The House anti-trust investigation found, for example, that Google has monopoly power in the market for search, while Facebook has monopoly power in the social networking market.
The subcommittee said Amazon and Apple have "significant and durable market power" in the US online retail market and in mobile operating systems and mobile app stores, respectively.
The proposed legislation also would make it more difficult for the giant tech companies to snap up competitors in mergers, which they have completed by scores in recent years.
The four companies have rejected lawmakers' accusations of abusing their dominant market position and have asserted that improper intervention in the market through legislation would hurt small businesses and consumers.
(With inputs from Associated Press and PTI)