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Biden adds Big Tech critic Tim Wu to his economic staff

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Friday rounded out his White House staff with a top adviser who has advocated for breaking up Big Tech companies along with a host of new appointments focused on COVID-19, criminal justice and the U.S. economy.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the White House in Washington, U.S. January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

The White House announced six additional staffers to its National Economic Council, including Columbia University professor Tim Wu, who coined the term “net neutrality” and has warned against an economy dominated by a few giant firms.

Wu in 2018 authored a book called “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age” in which he wrote about the inequalities created by extreme economic concentration.

“I think breakups or undoing of mergers are actually called for more than we have appreciated in the last few decades,” Wu has said previously about Big Tech companies.

The White House said Wu would help advance Biden’s agenda including addressing monopolies and issues of market power.

“The president has been clear ... that he stands up to the abuse of power and that includes the abuse of power from big technology companies and their executives,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“Tim will help advance the president’s agenda, which includes addressing the economic and social challenges posed by the growing power of tech platforms, promoting competition and addressing monopoly and market power issues,” Psaki said.

Wu has served previously as a senior enforcement counsel to the New York attorney general and as an adviser at the Federal Trade Commission and the National Economic Council.

“Putting this twitter feed on hold for now - so long!” Wu wrote in a post on Friday.

His appointment is a win for liberals who have pushed for tougher scrutiny of Big Tech firms such as Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc, Amazon and Alphabet Inc’s Google and is likely to shape the White House’s approach on tougher antitrust enforcement.

Google and Facebook have been sued by federal and state regulators for using their dominance to hurt rivals while Amazon and Apple Inc are still under investigation.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, said Wu’s appointment shows the administration is serious about promoting competition in the United States.

“America has a major monopoly problem that must be urgently addressed,” Klobuchar said.

Congressional Democrats have begun talks with the White House on ways to crack down on tech companies, including holding them accountable for disinformation and addressing their market power.

Several Republicans also have sought to rein in Big Tech, including efforts to scrap a law known as Section 230 that shields online companies for liability over users’ posted content.

The White House said Biden also named 13 additions to his Domestic Policy Council and two more staffers to the White House COVID-19 response team.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Nandita Bose; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Jeff Mason; Editing by Frances Kerry, Aurora Ellis and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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