FTC Nominee Khan Signals Support for Aggressive Approach on Big Tech
By Ryan Tracy
WASHINGTON -- Lina Khan, a Big Tech critic nominated to a seat
on the Federal Trade Commission, appeared on track to win
confirmation after a hearing Wednesday showed she has broad
Democratic support -- and might win some Republican votes.
Ms. Khan, a liberal law professor and former congressional
staffer who co-wrote a House report concluding that large online
platforms can harm consumers, signaled support for a more
aggressive approach from the FTC when it comes to digital markets
for news, smartphone apps and more.
Under questioning from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), chairman
of the Senate Commerce Committee, Ms. Khan expressed support for an
FTC review of the impact that Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Facebook
Inc. have had on the journalism industry.
"Everything needs to be on the table. Obviously local journalism
is in crisis," Ms. Khan said. "Increasingly, news publishers are
dependent on a few gatekeepers to disseminate their news."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) asked Ms. Khan about large technology
companies' market power and then told her: "I look forward to
working with you."
Other Republicans appeared more skeptical. Sen. Mike Lee (R.,
Utah) questioned her about the limits of the FTC's rule-making
authority and her criticism of U.S. antitrust laws.
"I have concerns about your background and lack of experience in
coming to that position," said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.).
She asked Ms. Khan how her approach to merger reviews would have
been different than under the Obama administration, when officials
declined to challenge many acquisitions by large technology
"There has been a lot of evidence that has come to light that
suggests that in certain cases there were missed opportunities for
enforcement actions," Ms. Khan said. The Democratic-controlled
Senate could approve her nomination without any Republicans voting
At 32 years old, Ms. Khan would be the youngest person ever
confirmed to an FTC commissioner post. FTC Commissioner Rohit
Chopra, who has been nominated to lead the Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau, was 34 at the time of his confirmation.
As one of five FTC commissioners, Ms. Khan won't be able to
dictate policies. She will have a vote on new regulations and
enforcement actions on consumer-protection and antitrust issues,
including any that might arise from the agency's continuing
antitrust inquiry into Amazon.com Inc. She and Mr. Chopra last year
argued that in addition to bringing antitrust lawsuits, the FTC
should be using its authority to regulate unfair methods of
Ms. Khan served until last year as a Democratic staffer on the
House Antitrust Subcommittee, where she helped write a report that
concluded Amazon, Apple Inc., Facebook and Google hold significant
and durable market power that hurts consumers.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), who leads the Senate Antitrust
Subcommittee, asked the nominee about competition in digital
markets, including on smartphone app stores.
"You're absolutely right that certain terms and conditions
really lack any type of beneficial justification," Ms. Khan said,
referring to terms and conditions imposed on app developers. "In
those cases, we need to be especially skeptical and really look
Write to Ryan Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 21, 2021 14:40 ET (18:40 GMT)
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