Heads up, Big Tech: Lina Khan, Amazon’s antitrust adversary, will chair FTC

Lina Khan. (Columbia Law School Photo)

Watch out, Amazon and other tech giants.

The White House has picked Lina Khan as chair of the Federal Trade Commission. Khan, 32, was confirmed by the Senate earlier Tuesday as commissioner. Axios and The Washington Post then reported that she will not only be a commissioner but the FTC’s chair.

It’s a big deal because of Khan’s stance on antitrust and what it signals about President Biden’s progressive outlook on the issue. It comes amid the federal government’s ongoing scrutiny over the power of Big Tech, which taking heat on a wide range of issues including alleged monopolistic behavior and privacy abuses.

Last week federal lawmakers introduced five bills that collectively seek to change the way large tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook do business and dominate their respective marketplaces.

Khan is an associate professor of law at Columbia Law School and an antitrust expert. She gained national attention while still in law school when Yale Law Review published her article, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” In it, Khan argued that the so-called “consumer welfare standard” — in which regulators look narrowly at prices to determine whether a company has behaved monopolistically — is insufficient for the digital economy. Khan believes that a company like Amazon can abuse its market power, even if it uses that power to lower prices for consumers, rather than raising them.

Before President Biden tapped Khan for the FTC job, she advised the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee in its investigation into Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. With her help, the committee published a 451-page “Gatekeepers” report last fall detailing the ways those companies capitalize on and allegedly abuse their market power to benefit themselves.

Khan will be the youngest FTC commissioner ever. The FTC has five commissioners total who vote on antitrust-related enforcement.

I’m so grateful to the Senate for my confirmation. Congress created the FTC to safeguard fair competition and protect consumers, workers, and honest businesses from unfair & deceptive practices. I look forward to upholding this mission with vigor and serving the American public.

— Lina Khan (@linamkhan) June 15, 2021

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