With Democrats declaring victory in a closely watched Senate runoff race in Georgia, America’s tech giants may face even more scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers amid a broader tech backlash.
“To be blunt, it’s a clear negative for Big Tech as ultimately with a Senate now likely controlled by Democrats we would expect much more scrutiny and sharper teeth around FAANG names with potential (although still a low risk) legislative changes to current antitrust laws now on the table,” Dan Ives of Wedbush wrote in a note Wednesday morning.
The Georgia runoff race has captivated the nation, as victories from two Democrats would result in 50% control of the Senate with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris able to serve as a tie-breaker. Votes are still officially being counted in Georgia, but the race has been called for Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock, who defeated the incumbent Republican, Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
As of Wednesday morning just before 9:30 a.m., Democrat Jon Ossoff had a slight lead over incumbent Sen. David Perdue. If Democrats effectively gain control of the Senate, they will do so at a time when Congress has stepped up its scrutiny of Big Tech — including its size and power, privacy issues, and broad legal immunity for content posted on their sites under a law known as Section 230.
A Democratic sweep could give lawmakers the muscle to actually enact legislation against big tech companies like Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), according to Ives. While cracking down on tech giants is often considered a bipartisan issue, Republican and Democratic lawmakers often have different ideas of exactly how to regulate Big Tech.
“While momentum for business model breakups of FAANG names have been gaining steam over the past few years within the Beltway and EU, it lacked any political strength to make significant changes outside of political grandstanding events,” he said. “This all changes now in the eyes of the Street with the risk of business model scrutiny from tech giants Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook now in a brighter spotlight, which adds more risk to the overall tech sector in our opinion.”
To be sure, Ives noted, Democrats will have only a slim majority, even if they take Georgia — and in the House, Republicans flipped over a dozen seats and narrowed the Democratic majority.
“We still believe with a slim majority that major legislative changes/breakups to Big Tech will find difficulty becoming a reality, however the risk of business model changes is now clearly in the conversation,” Ives said.