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Biden signs executive order targeting Big Tech and internet providers

The President has signed an executive order aimed at tackling the monopolies enjoyed by the most powerful technology firms and making internet provision more egalitarian.

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Biden signs executive order targeting Big Tech and internet providers
CARLOS BARRIA REUTERS

On Friday President Biden signed a sweeping executive order that looks to tackle everything from the increasingly powerful social media platforms to ensuring hearing aids are made more widely available.

However the main focus of Biden’s executive action was cracking down on the activities of Big Tech, attempting to make a more egalitarian marketplace while offering greater protection for individual users. This was also a priority for the Trump administration but the former President’s competition-focused executive orders had little impact on the technology giants.

After signing the order into law, the President told those gathered: "The heart of American capitalism is a simple idea: Open and fair competition. That means that if your companies want to win your business, they have to go out and they have to up their game."

Biden calls for greater control on the business practices of Big Tech firms

In recent years the power that online giants like Facebook and Amazon wield has only grown and the Biden administration is looking to better scrutinise the way that they maintain their supremacy. A key component is the so-called “killer acquisitions” of new rivals to ward off challengers.

Facebook has been accused of doing this in its purchase of both Instagram and Whatsapp but the Biden administration will now be tougher in assessing corporate mergers, both in the case of future and historical acquisitions.

Biden has also taken aim at the key Silicon Valley business model of collecting and profiting from the huge wealth of personal data at their disposal. The new order calls on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to introduce tougher rules on data collection and to ban unfair competition in online marketplaces, something Amazon has been accused of.

The FTC is also tasked with working alongside the Department of Justice to use existing antitrust regulations to prevent firms from sharing wage and benefit information with one another in order to 'fix' their terms.

Internet providers will have to be clearer on broadband speeds

Speaking from the White House on Thursday, Biden said: "Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want and treat you however they want. And for too many Americans that means accepting a bad deal for things you can't go without.”

The order he signed included a measure that will reintroduce the “nutritional label” for internet providers, ensuring that customers have a better idea of the service that they will actually receive after they have signed up. The system will be overseen by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who are also tasked with banning the exclusivity deals that limit some renters to just a single internet provider.

The FCC will also restore a number of net neutrality rules that had been reversed under the Trump administration. Net neutrality ensures that internet providers are not able to selectively block, slow down, or speed up any websites, and is designed to ensure that all internet users have the same access.