President Joe Biden on Tuesday tapped a top Google critic to lead the Justice Department's antitrust division.
Jonathan Kanter is a former Federal Trade Commission lawyer who has long criticized Google for its market power. He runs an "antitrust advocacy boutique," the Kanter Law Group, which has worked for Google competitors pushing for more rigorous antitrust enforcement.
If confirmed, Kanter would oversee an ongoing Justice Department antitrust case against Google. The suit specifically targets the "tying" agreements Google makes with various companies, including Apple, to make Google the default or only search engine available to users. Google accounts for almost 90 percent of search queries in the United States.
Kanter is the latest prominent tech critic Biden has picked for crucial antitrust jobs. Lina Khan, the recently confirmed FTC chair, rose to prominence arguing Amazon is a monopolist. She has moved quickly to make the agency her own, publicly warning tech companies and placing a gag order on staff. Tim Wu, now "special assistant to the president on technology and competition policy," wrote a book titled The Curse of Bigness, calling for the breakup of major companies.
Antitrust experts question how far FTC and Justice Department officials can pursue tech companies without changes to existing laws. Bills that would expand federal antitrust power are being considered in the House.
The Biden administration has signaled its willingness to go after big tech. Biden has repeatedly suggested repealing Section 230, which protects social media companies from being held responsible for speech on their platforms. A number of former Silicon Valley executives, however, including several Facebook alumni, also serve in the administration.