Tim Wu, a leading critic of big tech companies, joins the White House as an adviser on competition policy, sending a clear message to Silicon Valley that Joe Biden hopes to tame America’s most valuable companies.
As the author of influential books on technology policy The curse of greatness, The master switch Y Attention merchants, Wu is best known for coining the phrase “net neutrality” in 2002 to describe the rules that guarantee equal access to the Internet.
He is also the author of an often-quoted saying that describes the trade-off that search engine and social media users make with their personal data: “When an online service is free, you are not the customer. You are the product. “
Wu has described the wealth and power of big tech companies, notably Facebook, Google and Amazon, as creating a “new golden age” similar to the late 19th and early 20th century era of railroad construction. in America and the “robber barons.” He has said that his “life mission” is “to fight bullies.”
Wu previously worked for the New York attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Economic Council, and as a law clerk to a Supreme Court justice. He will now assume a new position as special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy.
President Biden’s appointment of the Columbia Law School professor will alert Silicon Valley that big acquisitions like Facebook’s purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp can still be undone, at a time when tech companies face antitrust action from authorities. Americans.
During his campaign, Biden argued that Section 230, the part of US law that protects social media companies from being sued for content posted on their sites by users, should be repealed. The debate was further heated after Facebook and Twitter banned former President Donald Trump from accessing their platforms in January.
Biden has also said that the big tech division was “something we should look at very carefully.”
Wu’s arguments about the damage to online competition and online discourse caused by the dominance of a handful of big tech companies informed the antitrust focus of Elizabeth Warren’s election campaign in the United States. “A good look at the mergers of the last decade is a high priority,” he told Wired in 2019. “I don’t think these oligopolies are good for employees, good for productivity, good for nothing.”
When the US Department of Justice and 11 state attorneys general sued Google for its search dominance last year, Wu told NPR: “This case indicates that the antitrust winter is over.”
In December, the US Federal Trade Commission and 46 states announced that they were filing an antitrust case against Facebook, calling for sanctions that could include a forced break, a position that Wu has openly supported. He has also rejected the social media group’s argument that antitrust action could pave the way for Chinese tech dominance while hurting American companies.
Wu’s appointment comes as Apple also found itself in the crosshairs of regulators in Europe this week, and the UK competition authority opened an investigation into App Store rules. The FT reported that the EU is close to formally charging the iPhone maker with antitrust abuse for the first time, following a complaint from the music service Spotify.