Big Tech companies are not supposed to have a say in congressional proceedings directed against them, and yet Microsoft reportedly managed to acquire a copy of a major antitrust legislation document. Details of the apparent disclosure were provided to Republican Rep. Thomas Massie by a whistleblower.
The Daily Caller reported late Wednesday that the document is the original version of the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act. The document includes bills that target Big Tech. According to Massie, every page in the document, received on Wednesday, is watermarked with the text “CONFIDENTIAL – Microsoft.”
“I just came into possession of a document that everyone needs to know about,” Massie said during a Judiciary Committee markup of the legislation on Wednesday. “It’s marked ‘CONFIDENTIAL – Microsoft.’ A whistleblower provided this. It’s the first draft of one of these bills that would’ve covered Microsoft. This begs the question: did Microsoft have this bill and the other bills that we are voting on today before I had this bill?”
“Why would you have to mark it ‘CONFIDENTIAL – Microsoft’ if they found it on the website for Congress,” he said.
The original version of the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act that Microsoft allegedly received included a lower threshold for determining which of the tech giant companies would be the most affected. The latest version of the bill states that platforms with a minimum of 50 million active monthly users would be subject to antitrust regulations, whereas the original version provided by the whistleblower put the number at 500,000.
During the hearing, Massie stated that the monthly active user change exempts Microsoft’s services from being affected by the proposed regulations. He then asked other members of the committee if any other Big Tech company was newly exempt from the regulations due to the alterations.
“We did not seek to be excluded from the bills,” Microsoft spokesperson Jennifer Crider told the Daily Caller.
Crider noted that Microsoft Windows has more than 50 million monthly active users.
However, a different alteration to the original bill may exempt Windows from the regulations, anyways. The first version defined “online platform” as an “operating system” while the latest version defined it as a “mobile operating system.”
“The [latest version] limited [the definition of ‘online platform’] to only ‘mobile online platforms,” Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren said during the hearing, noting the change. “That had the effect, for the most part, of exempting Microsoft from coverage of the bill.”
Lofgren said the alteration has the effect of excluding Microsoft Windows from regulation, proposing an amendment to reverse the definition change.
Later in the hearing, meanwhile, Rep. Jim Jordan argued that the committee cannot overlook Microsoft and its censorship of conservatives.
“That’s what we have here: Bills that supposedly go after Big Tech being written by Big Tech,” Jordan said.
Judiciary Committee Democrats first unveiled the antitrust bills earlier this month. The legislation, which has bipartisan support, could potentially lead to prosecutors breaking up Big Tech companies.
Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust Chairman David Cicilline said in a statement that Big Tech companies “have too much power” over the U.S. economy.