Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has authored a new book tackling the issue of monopolies. Titled Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age, it envisions a course for the future by examining past anticompetitive practices that have harmed American interests.
Currently the spotlight falls squarely on Big Tech, and while many Democrats and Republicans agree that monopolistic practices snuff out competition, they disagree on what the implications are and what to do about it. Despite the conflict, Klobuchar said lawmakers can't just sit idly by without taking action.
"We literally saw in Australia Google and Facebook hold an entire country hostage. They basically said to them, 'You know what, if you want to make us pay for content, we're taking our marbles and [going] home. We know we're 90 percent of your search engine,' says Google. 'But you're not going to have one, practically, if we leave,' even though Microsoft offered to stand up," she told Cheddar.
The senator also touched on a major battle over apps currently in the courts. Epic Games is accusing Apple of running an illegal monopoly through its app store after banning companies from informing customers that cheaper options were available for purchase directly on product websites rather than on Apple's platform, which takes up to a 30 percent commission on transactions. The trial kicked off on Monday, but Klobuchar said she is particularly interested in seeing just how much money Apple collects from its app store practices, which Epic Games suggests hovers around a 75 percent profit.
"Success is great, but when it starts harming others that are trying to compete, especially Spotify, where Apple is directly competing with them but then also controlling the app store where they sell their stuff," she said. "That is a classic monopoly problem, and we can't just put up our arms and say, 'You know, it's too complicated' or 'You know what, the courts are conservative so we're not going to do something about it.'"
Klobuchar said Congress is weighing its options to change antitrust laws, even though states have already been taking on the tech giants. In 2016, Apple copped to throttling chip speeds in older models of the iPhone to mask battery issues and push users to buy newer products following allegations from 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Meanwhile on other hot button tech issues, Klobuchar warned that social media platforms have to do a better job of sorting out real from fake news. Facebook's Oversight Board is about to make a decision on reactivating former President Donald Trump's profile. The Democratic senator described Trump as the "misinformer-in-chief" and said reactivating his account would be a detriment.
"I have made very clear that he is the conveyer of so much misinformation, especially about the election, something that led to the insurrection directly," Klobuchar stated. "He incited the insurrection as the House Managers made the case so vigorously to the Senate, garnering a number of Republican Senators' support for impeachment as well as for the House of Representatives. And so I don't believe he should be allowed back on that platform."