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Big Tech Critic Tim Wu Joins Biden Administration to Work on Competition Policy

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  • Big Tech critic and antitrust hawk Tim Wu is joining the Biden administration to work on technology and competition on the National Economic Council.
  • The hire signals the Biden administration is serious about competition policy and will likely be viewed favorably among progressives.
  • Biden has yet to fill out the top antitrust enforcement roles in his administration, however.

Big Tech critic and antitrust hawk Tim Wu announced Friday he is joining the Biden administration to work on technology and competition policy on the National Economic Council.

The hire signals the White House is serious about competition policy and will likely be viewed favorably among progressives hoping to see greater enforcement of antitrust laws, especially against tech giants like Amazon and Facebook. Wu's writing has played a major role in advancing the idea that major tech companies should be broken up to reinvigorate competition, particularly through his 2018 book, "The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age."

Wu has helped shape some of the most important debates around technology in the past decade. He coined the term "net neutrality" to describe the idea that internet service providers shouldn't discriminate between different types of communication online. Under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission established a net neutrality rule, but it was reversed by the Trump FCC. However, the agency under President Joe Biden could resurrect the rule.

Wu recently taught antitrust law at Columbia University and worked at the New York attorney general's office, the Federal Trade Commission and on the NEC under President Barack Obama.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference on Friday that Biden has been clear on his view that "he stands up to the abuse of power and that includes the abuse of power from big technology companies and their executives."

"Tim will help advance the president's agenda which includes addressing the economic and social challenges posed by the growing power of tech platforms, promoting competition and addressing monopoly and market power issues, expanding access to broadband for low income and rural communities across the country," Psaki said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, praised the hire in a statement on Friday.

"America has a major monopoly problem that must be urgently addressed. With the choice of Tim Wu as Special Assistant to the President for Technology and Competition, it is clear this administration is serious about promoting competition in the United States," she said.

Biden has yet to fill out the top antitrust enforcement roles in his administration, however. His picks for the FTC and Department of Justice Antitrust Division will either solidify the idea that he is ready to crack down on Big Tech, or undermine it. Reports on Biden's potential picks for those roles have run the gamut from progressives aligned with Wu's views to those who have gone on to work for or counsel the tech companies themselves. Critics fear the latter would be too lenient on Big Tech.

Psaki made clear at Friday's press conference that administration policy factors in more than the views of any one hire.

"If administration policy was determined by every person that was hired, we would have 400 different policies in each issue," she said.

Bolstering regulation on the tech companies has been a rare unifying topic between Democrats and Republicans in the past few years. When House Democrats came out last year with their lengthy report on the alleged anticompetitive conduct of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, several key Republicans agreed with the main allegations of the report. Some GOP members supported the exact legislative changes proposed.

It's also been a common thread between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump, under whom the DOJ and FTC brought antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook, respectively. The Biden administration is expected to continue those lawsuits and could even expand their scope.

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