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The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Tech industry cites economic downturn in antitrust defense

The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

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Below: Ticketmaster defends itself from monopoly accusations at a Senate hearing, and Amazon begins selling subscriptions for generic prescription medications. First:

Tech industry cites economic downturn in antitrust defense

As regulators ramp up efforts to break up Google, the tech giant and industry trade groups are deploying a new line of defense: highlighting the economic downturn.

The Justice Department and eight state attorneys general on Tuesday brought an antitrust lawsuit alleging that Google monopolized the digital ads market, as my colleagues reported

It marked the second federal antitrust suit targeting the tech giant and added to a barrage of other complaints from state and global antitrust enforcers.

The company and industry groups pushed back in part by criticizing regulators for targeting Google at a time when industry giants are shedding jobs amid economic head winds — a new shield in their battle against the government.

“Google’s online ad market share is now at an all time low, and it just laid off 12,000 employees in the midst of a declining advertising market — so this DOJ case seems pretty disconnected from economic reality,” Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich said in a statement. 

The center-left trade association counts Google, Apple and Amazon as financial backers. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Kovacevich added, “As the tech sector and advertising industry shed jobs, the Biden Administration should be looking for ways to support these sectors rather than undermine what’s left.”

In a long blog post responding to the suit, Dan Taylor, Google’s vice president of global ads, also cited the economic dynamics in pushing back. “Antitrust cases shouldn’t penalize companies that offer popular, efficient services, particularly in difficult economic times,” he wrote. 

It’s a defense that could gain prominence as companies roll out more cuts. 

Leaders of other tech groups in recent weeks have similarly suggested that antitrust advocates on Capitol Hill should tamp down their anti-Big Tech rhetoric given industry layoffs.

One prominent anti-monopoly group pushed back on the argument. 

Katie Van Dyck, senior legal counsel at the American Economic Liberties Project advocacy group, said the Chamber of Progress’s argument was “not based in reality.”

“Bloated and concentrated industry is what hurts employees, dampens wages and stunts innovation,” she told me. “That alone is reason to amp up enforcement, not weaken it.”

Justice Department leaders argued at a news conference Tuesday that Google’s alleged anti-competitive conduct continues to harm the economy and workers.  

“When any company, including a big technology company, violates the antitrust laws, our economy and our democracy suffers,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said

A slew of tech companies have announced significant layoffs in recent months, including Google, amid fears of a worsening economic landscape and potential recession in 2023

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, last week announced the largest layoff in its history, informing staff it would cut 12,000 people, an estimated 6 percent of its workforce. Facebook’s parent company, Meta, in November slashed 11,000 workers, or 13 percent of its workforce, and last week warned employees that more cuts could be coming. 

Microsoft last week announced layoffs of 10,000 employees, and Amazon said earlier this month it was eliminating 18,000 workers. 

As my colleagues reported, over 200,000 workers have been cut industry-wide since the start of 2022, according to the tracking site

Our top tabs

Ticketmaster defends itself at Senate hearing

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a top executive from Ticketmaster parent Live Nation pushed back on senators’ arguments that the company is a monopoly, Julian Mark reports. The hearing came after Taylor Swift fans tried to get tickets for the pop superstar’s tour in November; however, many weren’t able to land tickets because of glitches in Ticketmaster’s website.

Joe Berchtold, Live Nation’s president and chief financial officer, said the industry has “a lot of problems” and Live Nation has “an obligation to do better.” But he blamed the company’s issues on bots and scalpers, and said the online ticketing market is more competitive than when it merged with Ticketmaster.

In November, the Swift fans’ “ire turned to Ticketmaster, which has long been criticized for wielding outsize power over ticket sales and the live entertainment industry, as the company apologized for the failure, citing unprecedented demand,” Julian writes. “Both Republicans and Democrats expressed outrage and questioned whether the company handled the rollout appropriately.”

Amazon launches subscription service for generic prescription medications

Amazon’s new RxPass service will allow Prime members to have unlimited access to commonly prescribed generic medications for $5 per month, the Wall Street Journal’s Jennifer Calfas and Dean Seal report. Amazon Pharmacy Vice President John Love said the average Prime member will annually save roughly $100 on prescriptions with the service.  

“Amazon has been working to expand its healthcare offerings in the past year. The company said in July that it would acquire 1Life Healthcare Inc., an operator of primary-care clinics, in a $3.9 billion deal that included debt,” they write. “It was then among several bidders for the home-health-services provider Signify Health Inc., though it ultimately lost out to CVS Health Corp.”

Amazon has also faced criticism for its medical practices. Health professionals found that the company sometimes prioritized pleasing patients over providing the best possible care at its Amazon Care primary-care service.

Europe aims to cut costs for telecom operators’ 5G

A European Commission document viewed by Reuters says that the commission wants to make it easier for telecommunications companies to launch 5G service, Reuters’s Foo Yun Chee reports.

“The EU executive, which wants all Europeans to have access to gigabit connectivity and 75% of EU companies to use cloud infrastructure or artificial intelligence technology by 2030, is expected to announce its proposal, called the Gigabit Infrastructure Act, on Feb. 10,” she writes. “The measure could save telecoms operators about 40 million euros ($43.5 million) in annual administrative costs, the paper said.”

“Several of the proposed changes aim to make rules and procedures more clear, streamlined and simple, allow parties to easily understand their rights and obligations and seek to promote synergies,” it also said, according to Reuters.

Inside the industry

Microsoft offers lackluster guidance, says new business growth slowed in December (CNBC)

Workforce report

YouTube illegally uses return-to-office push to derail union, complaint claims (Bloomberg News)

SoundHound raises $25 million after laying off nearly half its employees (Gizmodo)

Uber Freight laying off 150, about 3 percent of workforce (Reuters)

Privacy monitor

French privacy chief warns against using facial recognition for 2024 Olympics (Politico Europe)


How Nextdoor put neighbors in a housing policy 'cage match' (Motherboard)


  • Officials from the Commerce Department, Labor Department and Transportation Department speak at a Brookings Institution event on infrastructure investments today at 2 p.m. 
  • I moderate an R Street institute event on privacy and security legislation on Thursday at 4 p.m.
  • Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for internal market, speaks at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on security and technology at 9 a.m. Friday. 

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