Wednesday 20 January 2021 3:35 pm

Biden mulls creation of competition tsar amid tech probes

The administration of incoming US President Joe Biden is said to be mulling the creation of a new White House role focused on competition issues amid a string of probes into tech giants.

The Biden administration is still weighing up the role, which could be based in the White House or focus on coordinating actions between different agencies, Reuters reported, citing two sources.

Read more: EU chief Von der Leyen calls for ‘democratic limits’ to Big Tech power

“It is yet to be determined if this will be more of a coordinator kind of a role or if this person will really sit at the White House,” said another source. 

A final decision is yet to be made and the move may not go ahead at all, according to the report.

If created, a new antitrust-focused position would mirror that of Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition tsar.

Vestager has built a formidable reputation for her crackdowns on anti-competitive practices by some of the world’s biggest tech firms, handing down hefty fines to Apple, Google and Facebook in recent years.

Antitrust issues have also risen to the fore in the US amid a spate of recent investigations into Silicon Valley practices.

Read more: Google CEO criticises antitrust regulation

The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have sued Google and Facebook respectively over alleged breaches of competition law, while probes into Amazon and Apple are still ongoing.

The appointment of a competition tsar could also help Biden stave off concerns about the number of tech executives linked to his administration.

In November more than 30 advocacy groups wrote to the president-elect urging him to hold Big Tech to account and reject the influence of the sector over his presidency.

Read more: Google faces multi-state antitrust lawsuit for ‘anticompetitive conduct’

It followed reports that Biden had appointed more tech executives than tech critics to his transition team, sparking suggestions that his administration will take a favourable approach to Silicon Valley.

Last week Reuters reported that two former Obama administration officials had emerged as Biden’s front-runners for the top antitrust job at the Department of Justice.