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One of Big Tech's biggest critics is joining the Biden administration

Big Tech critic and antitrust hawk Tim Wu has helped shape some of the most important debates around technology in the past decade.
Image: Tim Wu
Tim Wu speaks to reporters in New York in 2014.Seth Wenig / AP file

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

The hire signals that the Biden administration is serious about competition policy and will likely be viewed favorably among progressives hoping to see greater enforcement of the antitrust laws, especially against tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

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. The Federal Communications Commission established a net neutrality rule under Obama that was reversed under the next administration, though Biden’s FCC could again resurrect the rule.

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

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 the tech companies and concentration of power, or undermine it. News reports on Biden’s potential picks for those roles have run the gamut between progressives aligned with Wu’s views on competition to those who have gone on to work for or counsel the tech companies themselves, who critics fear would be too lenient on them.

Enhancing regulation on the tech companies has been a rare unifying topic between Democrats and Republicans for 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 said they agreed with the main allegations of the report, if not the exact proposed legislative changes it included.

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.