Comment | Klobuchar’s Big Tech antitrust bill should be voted on after recess.


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As I mentioned, the first major effort to take on Big Tech’s anti-competitive behavior — the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) — failed to get a vote before Congress’s August recess. Of course, Democrats are exceptionally busy, but that should be a priority when they return next month.

It would essentially be a law aimed at large online companies. Prevent major technology platforms from favoring their own services and products over competitors.

The bill would be of great importance to companies like Amazon, Apple and Google that run their own marketplaces for products or information. Those companies are accused of pricing their products higher than their competitors in order to make more profit for themselves.

For example, third-party sellers on Amazon suspect that the platform will rank its own similar private-label products above their own. Travel or location search sites such as Yelp and Tripadvisor have complained that Google unfairly demotes their links in search results so that the Google Maps tool takes the top spot. The platforms have denied any wrongdoing and said their decisions are based on determining what makes for the best experience for users.

(Disclosure: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.)

Big Tech is spending big to kill laws that protect platforms from harm from competitors. From the scary and disgusting ads, you’d think the bill is about destroying civilization as we know it.

As Bloomberg recently reported: “Tech industry-backed groups in 2015 Since early 2021, they have spent $120 million on political advertising. Field” Proponents of the law are essentially small non-profit organizations that support online competition.

One of them, Accountable Tech, sent around a Capitol Hill memo I found. They argue that the pro-competition bill is another anti-inflation measure. “More than Democrats or Republicans, or more than Biden or Trump, Americans blame corporate greed and monopoly exploitation for fueling inflation,” the memo argues. “And tech giants spent a record $1.4 trillion last year, driving up prices in the economy and showing their frenzy of brutal profitability.

Antitrust advocates are launching an ad buy focusing on inflation in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire and New York.

The campaign aligns with Democrats’ claims that increased market cap in food, drug, energy and other industries allows big corporations to reap excessive profits, raise prices (inflation), depress wages and otherwise hurt consumers. In May, the House passed a bill to combat inflation at the gas pump. The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act tackles Big Pharma and inflated drug costs in a different way: a cap on insulin prices for Medicare beneficiaries and new authority for the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices in certain categories. Now, Klobuchar and other supporters of the bill want to put Big Tech on the hot seat.

The legislation has received bipartisan support, for reasons not directly related to the bill. Frankly, while Democrats and Republicans agree on very little, both parties have developed a strong hatred of big tech. Democrats accuse tech companies of refusing to remove posts that incite misinformation, violence and hate speech from their platforms. They blame social media algorithms for fueling anger and extreme partisanship. Republicans (inaccurately but passionately) accuse Big Tech of not liking conservatives (even though right-wing outlets are consistently ranked on platforms like Facebook). Both parties have accused the tech industry of exploiting children in harmful ways.

To be clear, the antitrust bill has almost nothing to do with these topics, but bad feelings on both sides of the aisle have significantly weakened Big Tech’s prestige and prestige, making the companies generally easier targets for regulation.

At a time of record inflation, the drive to bring Big Tech to heel — just as Democrats have tried with other high-tech fields — is strong, giving Republicans (who oppose moves to deregulate other industries) a valuable opportunity to demonstrate. They fight for consumers. And while it doesn’t address anger-inducing algorithms or stop hate speech, the bill would be an unusual strike against an industry that both parties see as too big for its wrongdoings.



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