Joe Biden Nominates Jonathan Kanter, A Google Critic, As Antitrust Chief

(AP Photo/NewsBase)

Joe Biden has nominated attorney Jonathan Kanter, a prominent critic of Google and big tech, as the next antitrust chief in the Justice Department.

Kanter has been “a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy,” the White House said in a statement announcing the nomination.

Kanter is partner at Kanter Law Group, a boutique antitrust firm, where he has represented clients raising antitrust concerns about Google. He’s represented companies including News Corp. and Microsoft, as well as smaller firms.

Kanter was co-chair of the antitrust practice at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, but left that practice last fall, reportedly because his clients would have posed a conflict with larger companies represented by the firm. He also served as an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission’s bureau of competition. He earned his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis and his bachelor’s degree from State University of New York at Albany.

The Justice Department, along with 11 states, sued Google in October, claiming that the internet giant abused its market power in search and advertising.

Kanter must be confirmed by the Senate, a process that could take several more months.

He’s already drawn support from some lawmakers, as both Democrats and Republicans target the dominance of platforms. The House Judiciary Committee last month passed a series of bills that would likely force platforms to divest some of their businesses, along with other measures to make it easier for the DOJ and the FTC to challenge big tech mergers.

Biden recently tapped Lina Khan, another critic of big tech platforms, to lead the FTC after she was confirmed by the Senate for a vacancy on the commission. The FTC is investigating Amazon’s planned purchase of MGM.

Along with News Corp, he was outside counsel for the News Media Alliance, which represents newspaper publishers, as they have sought legislation that would allow publishers to collectively negotiate deals with platforms like Facebook and Google.

In 2017, Kanter, along with Brandon Kressin, wrote about the “commoditization” of news content for an antitrust journal, raising some of the same issues that Khan has raised when it comes to recent enforcement.

They wrote, “Dominant online platforms have control over the mix of news sources that are presented to consumers, and they have an incentive to alter that mix to benefit themselves. The end result is a deterioration in the quality of news content available to consumers and the spread of misinformation. Both of these are consumer harms with real world consequences, but there is a risk that regulators will give such non-quantifiable harms less weight compared to the price-related consumer harms with which they are more familiar.”

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