US President Joe Biden on Tuesday installed an energetic critic of Big Tech as a top federal regulator at a time when the industry is under intense pressure from Congress, regulators and state attorneys general.
The selection of Pakistan-origin legal scholar Lina Khan to head the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seen as signaling a tough stance towards tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. Khan was sworn in as FTC chair just hours after the Senate confirmed her as one of five members of the commission on a 69-28 vote.
According to The New York Times, Khan was born in London to Pakistani parents who emigrated to the United States when she was 11.
Khan has been a professor at Columbia University Law School and burst onto the antitrust scene with her massive scholarly work in 2017 as a Yale law student, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox”.
She helped lay the foundation for a new way of looking at antitrust law beyond the impact of big company market dominance on consumer prices. As counsel to a House Judiciary antitrust panel in 2019 and 2020, she played a key role in a sweeping bipartisan investigation of the market power of the tech giants.
At 32, she is believed to be the youngest chair in the history of the FTC, which polices competition and consumer protection in industry generally as well as digital privacy.
“Lina brings deep knowledge and expertise to this role and will be a fearless champion for consumers,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has called for tech industry breakups, said in a statement.
“Giant tech companies deserve the growing scrutiny they are facing, and consolidation is choking off competition across American industries. With 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.”
Khan also was a legal adviser to Rohit Chopra, an FTC commissioner, and was previously legal director of the Open Markets Institute, an organisation that advocates against corporate concentration.
“It is a tremendous honour to have been selected by President Biden to lead the Federal Trade Commission,” Khan said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to protect the public from corporate abuse.”