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Biden’s antitrust enforcer Khan hit by resignation

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Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan is accused of abuse of power and bias against big tech as the last remaining Republican resigns from the FTC./AFP
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Feb 15, 2023 - 03:45 AM

WASHINGTON — A top competition enforcer for US President Joe Biden was accused Tuesday of abusing her power and bias against big tech as the last remaining Republican resigned from the Federal Trade Commission.

Before taking over as FTC chair, Lina Khan, a respected antitrust academic, was known for her stinging criticism of tech giants that she said had become too powerful, recommending that in some cases they be broken up.

Christine Wilson, a member of the five-person panel that runs the FTC, said that she and her staff had spent “countless hours seeking to expose (Khan’s) abuses of government power.”

“Much ink has been spilled about Lina Khan’s attempts to remake federal antitrust law as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission,” Wilson wrote in an opinion announcing her resignation in the Wall Street Journal.

“Less has been said about her disregard for the rule of law and due process and the way senior FTC officials enable her,” she added.

Wilson singled out the FTC’s failed attempt to block Facebook-owner Meta’s purchase of Within, a virtual reality app.

The FTC was concerned by Meta’s history of buying up promising companies in an effort to expand its reach into the virtual reality business known as the metaverse.

A California judge in January rejected the FTC’s lawsuit in a setback for Khan.

In her resignation, Wilson severely criticized Khan’s refusal to recuse herself from the case, despite her history as a major critic of Meta and the other tech giants.

Another Republican commissioner, Noah Joshua Phillips, stood down in October, leaving the FTC with only three commissioners including Khan, all from President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party.

“While we often disagreed with Commissioner Wilson, we respect her devotion to her beliefs and are grateful for her public service. We wish her well in her next endeavor,” Khan and the two other remaining commissioners said in a statement.

President Biden has made a tougher antitrust policy against big tech a priority in his administration, though he is challenged by a politically divided congress to pass legislation.

The US has trailed governments in Europe and Asia in drawing up more modern rules to curb the power of the biggest tech companies.

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