Big tech companies have spared no expense in gobbling up rivals in recent years, even as lawmakers crafted historic antitrust laws to curb their most anti-competitive impulses.
This is after a new one report The Tech Oversight project, shared exclusively with Gizmodo, which claims Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, and Apple have collectively spent at least $32 billion on acquisitions since 2019. While that number sounds high, it’s almost certainly far less than the true amount tech companies have been spending. as the financial details surrounding major acquisitions have remained unknown to the public since 2019. The results come as lawmakers in the House and Senate work desperately to advance a vote on two key antitrust laws ahead of the November 2022 interim periods.
In the report, The Oversight Project accused leading tech companies of using their dominant presence to “either capture or kill competitors in the marketplace.” These tactics, the report argues, are all the more reason for lawmakers to support them American Innovation and Choice Online Actand the Open App Markets Act, two bills supported by a variety of tech critics and utterly despised by Bigtech.
Amazon stood out among its tech peers in the report, reportedly spending at least $16 billion on 19 acquisitions over the past three years. Google owner Alphabet lagged behind, reportedly spending at least $11.87 billion to acquire 25 companies. Meta and Apple, on the other hand, spent significantly less, with the report estimating the two spent $2.51 billion and $1.62 billion on acquisitions, respectively. Four of the 19, or about 20%, of the companies that Apple has acquired have been involved in virtual or augmented reality, a possible sign that efforts to deliver a are ramping up long rumored Virtual Reality Headset.
“To curb Big Tech’s most predatory practices, passing antitrust laws is a realistic first step we must take,” Tech Oversight Project Executive Director Sacha Haworth said in a statement. “We need Senate Majority Leader Schumer to fulfill his promise and get the package to a vote so we can also move forward on the laundry list of pieces of legislation needed to protect businesses, families, and children and young people from businesses that.” they have abused and benefited from costs.”
Big Tech’s bold acquisition plan has been particularly brazen about one company in recent months: Amazon. in the less than three monthsAmazon announced its intention acquire Concierge healthcare provider OneMedical, Roomba manufacturer i robotand warehouse robot companies Cloostermans. Although Amazon hasn’t disclosed financial terms for Cloostermans, the OneMedical and iRobot deals are worth a combined $5.6 billion.
“In the post-Roe world, the surge in acquisitions in healthcare and surveillance is frankly disgusting and paints a dystopian picture of what digital competition and privacy will be like if Big Tech is left unchecked,” Haworth said. “We just have to do more than sit idly by for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon to regulate themselves – they never will.”
Of course, buying up companies is neither new nor necessarily remarkable. In the case of Big Tech, however, the Oversight Project report argues that the companies have uniquely used their market dominance and deep pockets to create “an uneven playing field that stifles innovation, bleeds small businesses dry and constrains consumer choice.” .
Similarly, US regulators, such as the Assistant Attorney at the Department of Justice and have pointed out Big tech critic Jonathan Kanter has raised concerns that some of the types of acquisitions envisaged in the oversight project could stifle competition.
“When a merger brings competitors together, the risk of oligopoly behavior increases,” says Kanter said earlier this week at the Antitrust Law Symposium in Georgetown. “Like concerted action, oligopoly behavior exacerbated by mergers deprives the market of independent decision-making centers and justifies intervention.”
Proponents of antitrust laws making their way through Congress, like The Tech Oversight Project, believe their passage could pose significant obstacles to slowing the race to the bottom by big tech companies. These efforts at increased tech regulation enjoy broad bipartisan support, according to a growing variety of polls, something about as common as 2022 Bigfoot sightings in America.
A typical example is a February morning consultation opinion poll found that 67% of American adults believe that the benefits offered by big tech companies do not outweigh the dangers posed by their increased power. Before another opinion poll According to a study published by Vox and the left-leaning firm Data for Progress, 59% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans said big tech’s economic power was a “problem” for the US economy. Additionally, about 55% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans said they support disbanding Big Tech.
So what about those voices…
Yet despite all this seeming support, the very bills aimed at blocking technology’s monopolistic impulses are arguably nowhere closer to becoming law than they were nine months ago. Earlier in the year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer all but guaranteed the senator that he would do so hold a vote to the American Innovation and Choice Online Act in the summer. Then Schumer suddenly went very quiet on the subject aggravation by antitrust activists nationwide. More than a dozen progressive House legislators wrote a letter to Schumer in July, urging him to vote on the bills before a month-long hiatus in August, but those requests went unanswered. youngest reports suggest that Schumer overestimated how many votes were in the bag and ultimately chose to sit on the bill.
At least part of the explanation for the slowdown in momentum comes from the staggering amount of financial resources Big Tech has invested killing the bills. Since 2021, the big four tech companies have reportedly spent a whopping $95 million on lobbying corresponding a recent Bloomberg analysis. Amazon, which arguably has the most to lose if the bills under consideration are accepted, allegedly issued a record $4.98 million in lobbying in the second quarter alone.
The clock is ticking. If the bills still don’t pass before the midterms in November, progressive lawmakers and proponents say they may not pass at all.
“The closer we get to the interim periods, the less likely I think it is that Republican congressmen will give Joe Biden bipartisan victories, which underscores the urgency of getting this done as soon as possible,” said Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of Accountable Tech, in a June CNBC interview. “There is a very real but narrow window of opportunity for these two bills.”
And while some reports suggest that Schumer is interested in getting these bills put to a vote in the coming weeks, lawmakers said in a recent speech time report say they’ve all but given up on that actually happening. Sources speaking in that article claimed Schumer may be deliberately delaying the bill to avoid its proponents becoming sources of big-tech attacks during their reelection bids, or simply digging the bill deeper into Democrats’ voting priorities. Proponents like Fight for the Future executive director Evan Greer don’t think so.
“Let’s get one thing straight: This isn’t about a ‘packed legislative calendar,’ or ‘competing priorities,’ or ‘not having the votes,'” Greer said in one expression in this week. “This is about corruption, pure and simple, and the sickening hold of big tech money in DC.”
You can read the report in full below: