"Modernization of our antitrust laws is long overdue and broadly supported," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a press release announcing his support of the coalition. "The last time Congress passed a comprehensive update to federal antitrust laws was many decades ago – before tech companies like Facebook or Google even existed."
But are the bills on the table the right ones to tamp down monopolistic behavior without dealing death blows to the American companies that have come to dominate much of the nation's economic landscape? Tech industry lobbyists have been hotly contesting much of the language behind the scenes. Still, the executives testifying Tuesday made pains to avoid any remarks that might be perceived as aggressive or aggrieved.
"Data by itself does not guarantee better or more successful products," Google Vice President Markham Erickson told lawmakers in his prepared remarks. "Rather, it is the investment, innovation and method that matters, not just the amount of data a company may have."
Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy director of the advocacy group Public Knowledge, offered a kind of blessing for the variety of laws under consideration during her remarks at the hearing.
"For decades, Washington has taken the perspective that we need to let digital businesses run wild to see what great innovations they might come up with. But today, unscrupulous data practices and consolidated power have led us to a place that isn't anyone's dream of what the internet was supposed to be," Slaiman said.
She added, "Congress has already done the laudable work of introducing a series of bills to combat these harms. The best time to pass them was 10 years ago, but the second-best time is now."