Whistleblower document appears to show Microsoft helped write Big Tech bills
Thomas Catenacci, DCNF
- Microsoft was given an advance copy of major antitrust legislation, a document given to Republican Rep. Thomas Massie by a whistleblower appeared to show.
- “I just came into possession of a document that everyone needs to know about,” Massie said during the Judiciary Committee markup of the legislation on Wednesday. “It’s marked ‘CONFIDENTIAL – Microsoft.’ A whistleblower provided this. It’s the first draft of one of these bills that would’ve covered Microsoft.”
- Later in the hearing, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren also criticized recent changes made to the legislation, noting that Microsoft Windows could be exempt from regulations under the new version.
- “We did not seek to be excluded from the bills,” Microsoft spokesperson Jennifer Crider told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Microsoft was given an advance copy of major antitrust legislation, a document given to Republican Rep. Thomas Massie by a whistleblower appeared to show.
The document is the original version of the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, one of Democrats’ six pending antitrust bills targeting Big Tech, according to Rep. Thomas Massie. Every page of the document, which the Daily Caller News Foundation obtained on Wednesday, is watermarked with the text “CONFIDENTIAL – Microsoft.”
“I just came into possession of a document that everyone needs to know about,” Massie said during the Judiciary Committee markup of the legislation on Wednesday. “It’s marked ‘CONFIDENTIAL – Microsoft.’ A whistleblower provided this. It’s the first draft of one of these bills that would’ve covered Microsoft. This begs the question: did Microsoft have this bill and the other bills that we are voting on today before I had this bill?”
“Why would you have to mark it ‘CONFIDENTIAL – Microsoft’ if they found it on the website for Congress,” he said.
Did @RepCicilline write the ACCESS Act? Or Microsoft's lobbyists? @RepThomasMassie wants answers. pic.twitter.com/Aaiu44GN0K
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) June 23, 2021
The original version of the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act that Microsoft apparently received notably included a much lower threshold for determining which Big Tech companies would be affected than the updated version, the whistleblower document showed. Whereas the latest version of the bill states that platforms with at least 50 million monthly active users would be subject to the antitrust regulations, the original version provided by the whistleblower set that number at 500,000.
The monthly active users change exempts Microsoft’s services from being affected by the proposed regulations, Massie said during the hearing. He asked the other members of the committee if any other Big Tech company was also exempted from the regulations due to the alterations.
“We did not seek to be excluded from the bills,” Microsoft spokesperson Jennifer Crider told the DCNF.
Crider added that Microsoft Windows has more than 50 million monthly active users.
However, a separate alteration to the original bill potentially exempts Windows from the regulations. The first version defined “online platform” as an “operating system” while the latest version defined it as a “mobile operating system.”
“The [latest version] limited [the definition of ‘online platform’] to only ‘mobile online platforms,” Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren said during Wednesday’s hearing, noting the change. “That had the effect, for the most part, of exempting Microsoft from coverage of the bill.”
Lofgren said the change specifically has the effect of excluding Microsoft Windows from being regulated. She proposed an amendment to reverse the definition change.
Later in the hearing, meanwhile, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan echoed Massie’s criticism. He argued that the committee cannot overlook Microsoft and its censorship of conservatives.
“That’s what we have here: Bills that supposedly go after Big Tech being written by Big Tech,” Jordan said.
Judiciary Committee Democrats first unveiled their antitrust bills earlier this month. The legislation, which has bipartisan support, could reportedly lead to prosecutors breaking up Big Tech companies.
Large tech companies “have too much power” over the U.S. economy, Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust Chairman David Cicilline said in a statement.
The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. The bill would prohibit major Big Tech acquisitions that entrench a company’s market power.