A Leading Critic of Big Tech Will Join the White House
His role, with a focus on competition policy, will be a new one in the National Economic Council. Mr. Wu will also focus on competition in labor policy, such as noncompete clauses enforced by companies, and concentration in power in agriculture and the drug industry. The job does not require Senate approval.
Key Developments in Regulating Big Tech
Pressure has been mounting from the public, government and workers to rein in the biggest tech companies, which have been allowed to grow and operate relatively unrestricted until now.
Mr. Biden has not yet named nominees to officially lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division and the Federal Trade Commission — the main agencies overseeing competition in commerce. Progressives have vociferously fought for the appointments of left-leaning advocates like Mr. Wu over individuals with histories of working for tech companies and law firms that represent them.
“Tim has been a longtime antitrust advocate, and he has pushed public officials to break up and rein in Big Tech,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “I’m glad to see him in this role.”
Mr. Wu has left academia at various times to work in government. He was a special adviser to the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 and 2012 and then joined the National Economic Council to work on competition policy during the Obama administration, which was known for its kid-glove treatment of tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon. Mr. Wu has since expressed some regret.
“I worked in the Obama administration, and I worked in antitrust, so I will take some personal blame here, but we have not provided the merger oversight we should have,” Mr. Wu said in an interview at the Aspen Ideas festival in 2019. He added that “maybe sometimes we had an overly rosy view” of the tech sector.
Relatively unbridled by regulations, those companies greatly expanded through mergers and acquisitions during President Barack Obama’s two terms. Mr. Wu has talked about the pivot of many Democrats since those days, with the realization that the tech giants have failed to live up to promises to protect user data, treat small competitors fairly and root out misinformation from their platforms.
Mr. Wu is best known for advocacy against powerful telecom companies and for coining the term “net neutrality,” the regulatory philosophy that consumers should get equal access to all content on the internet. More recently, he has turned his attention to the gatekeepers — like Facebook, Google and Amazon — that dominate speech, search and retail online.