Lina Khan is the new chair of the US Federal Trade Commission

Lina Khan is the 32-year old chair of the US Federal Trade Commission

Khan

At just 32, Lina Khan has become the new chair of America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC). On Tuesday, Khan was confirmed and sworn in as an FTC commissioner on a bipartisan vote of 69 to 28. 

President Joe Biden selected the antitrust researcher to fulfil the role, a decision that follows the selection of fellow progressive and big tech critic, Tim Wu to join the National Economic Council.

Khan has spent her career focusing on big tech’s immense growing corporate power and the appointment is seen as a key win for progressives who have pushed for tougher laws to tackle giant monopolies. 

Khan is admired by progressive anti-trust thinkers and anti-trust campaigners who have pushed for tougher anti-trust laws and enforcement of existing laws.

Khan was on the staff of the House judiciary committee’s anti-trust panel, and helped write a report that condemned Amazon, Apple Facebook and Alphabet for abusing their power.

She has previously worked at the FTC as a legal adviser to Commissioner Rohit Chopra, who is President Biden’s nominee to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Khan was born in the UK to Pakistani parents and moved to the U.S just before high school. She studied law at Yale and currently teaches at Columbia Law School. In 2019, she was named as one of TIME’s Next Generation Leaders.

In her new role, often seen as the most powerful consumer protection job in the country, Khan will work on protecting consumers from bad business practices and companies from unfair competition.

The appointment comes as the federal government and states have issued lawsuits and investigations into various tech giants. 

Back in December last year, the FTC sued Facebook for “illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct” and is continuing to investigate Amazon after it payed more than $61.7 million to settle charges that it had failed to pay Amazon Flex drivers the full amount of tips they received. 

Elizabeth Warren described Khan’s appointment in a tweet as “tremendous news”. In her 2020 presidential campaign, Warren supported breaking up big tech. 

In a separate statement, she wrote, “…with chair Khan at the helm, we have a huge opportunity to make big, structural change by reviving antitrust enforcement and fighting monopolies that threaten our economy, our society, and our democracy.” 

In January, Khan told the BBC she was drawn to competition law as a policy researcher after graduating from Yale. 

“What became clear is there had been a systemic trend across the US… markets had come to be controlled by a very small number of companies,” she said.

Shortly after, Khan began to shift her focus to competition and the perceived lack of it in Silicon Valley.

She believed that just a handful of large U.S tech firms dominated the sector at the expense of competition and that current laws were not fit for the challenges of today.

“These firms essentially provide infrastructure to the digital age,” she told the BBC. “A small group of private executives are setting the rules of who gets to use the infrastructure and on what terms.” 

In 2017, Khan wrote a widely circulated paper called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” for the Yale Law Journal, where she argued that the traditional anti-trust focus on price was not enough to identify potential harms done by Amazon.

“Even when services are good for consumers, they can hurt a whole set of other interests – be it workers, be it business formation, be it democracy at large.” 

Khan’s appointment is the clearest sign yet that President Biden has every intention of stamping down on big companies like Amazon and Apple.

Conservative groups, such as the advocacy group the Internet Accountability Project (IAP), have come out to support Khan’s appointment, saying the vote was a “testament to the sea change in opinion on the right for antitrust modernisation and enforcement”.

“Big tech brought this on themselves with their abusive, censorial and anticompetitive behaviour,” the group expressed. “The era of unchecked big tech monopoly power is over.”

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