Tech Policy: White House Has Circulated a Draft Executive Order Calling for Stepped-Up Enforcement Against Tech Platforms

Vol. 6 No. 342 - September 21, 2018 - Click here to access our library.

Regulatory Update

The White House has circulated a draft executive order calling for the executive branch to better police dominant online platforms, according to multiple sources who have seen the document.

It’s unclear when or if the White House will decide to issue the order.

The draft is written in two parts—a policy statement and an instruction to all agencies. In the policy statement, the draft says that platforms are central to the flow of information and commerce and need to be held accountable through competition, sources said.

The second part instructs agencies to enforce against anticompetitive conduct when they have authority, and, if they don’t, to report concerns or issues to the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice, the sources said.

No online platforms are mentioned by name in the draft.

The circulation of a draft executive order comes as the FTC hosts a series of hearings on whether antitrust and consumer protection enforcement should be more aggressive, and Republicans publicly express more concerns about the tech sector.

President Trump last month tweeted that Google in its search results about him prioritized stories from CNN and other "National Left-Wing Media" over more conservative news outlets. While these concerns are considered by many legal analysts to be beyond the scope of competition law, members of Congress such as Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, have urged the FTC to investigate Google over antitrust concerns.

Some Republican attorneys general also are pressing for federal antitrust investigations into tech platforms, or, in the case of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, have advocated for the breakup of Google, Facebook and other powerful companies in the sector.

An FTC spokesperson declined to comment about the draft order. Spokespeople for the DOJ and White House didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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