The Biden administration is vetting Lina Khan, a prominent critic of large technology companies, for a senior government role, in the latest sign that the US president intends to take an aggressive stance on competition policy.
Two people with knowledge of the vetting process told the Financial Times that Khan had been chosen for a job in the federal government, most likely as a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission.
The news of her impending nomination, which was first reported by Politico, comes just days after the White House appointed Tim Wu, another well-known critic of Big Tech, as an adviser on competition policy.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment, and has not confirmed Khan is under consideration, but the reports of her potential appointment have already sparked praise from progressives and criticism from Silicon Valley.
Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, said: “Lina is the most knowledgeable person out there on how Big Tech companies have built their monopolies and how they have leveraged their market power in ways that disadvantage their competitors.”
Aurelien Portuese, director of antitrust and innovation policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think-tank funded in part by large technology companies, said: “Together with Tim Wu . . . Lina Khan has been instrumental in bringing a populist view of antitrust to mainstream media and the general public.”
Portuese added: “Khan’s antitrust populism threatens to derail traditional enforcement of antitrust laws as an engine for enhancing consumer benefits and spurring innovation.”
Khan came to prominence while at Yale law school, when she wrote a paper on what she described as Amazon’s anti-competitive practices.
Her paper helped redefine thinking about corporate power in the technology age, and provided momentum to growing calls for tougher competition enforcement against Silicon Valley’s largest companies.
Last year she helped write a damning Congressional report that found Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook had all abused their market power, and called for the US’s competition laws to be rewritten.
A role at the FTC would give Khan oversight over the commission’s case against Facebook, which officials have already said could result in the company having to sell its picture app Instagram and its messaging service WhatsApp.
It would also give her a say over whether the commission should take action against Amazon, which it is also reported to be investigating.
Even if Khan does not secure a role in government, progressives say they believe Biden has already shown he is serious about taking on market power in the technology industry and elsewhere.
They believe that with appointments such as Wu’s, the president has demonstrated he is willing to be far tougher on large technology companies than Barack Obama, in whose administration he served as vice-president.
Barry Lynn, director of the Open Markets Institute and a former colleague of Khan, said: “The Biden administration has appointed a lot of people who are really good on all these issues. Throughout the White House, state department and National Economic Council, this is a radically different government than any we have seen before.”