A Bipartisan Tech Antitrust Bill May Soon Pass. It’s Still a Bad Idea.
There is a rising concern among politicians on both the left and right to rein in “Big Tech.” While specific complaints vary, there is a general agreement among lawmakers that the very largest tech companies, like Apple, Alphabet (which owns Google), Meta (which owns Facebook), and Amazon, simply exercise too much power.
One bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), purports to make “certain discriminatory conduct” illegal when practiced by tech platforms. The bill has been around since last year, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) and a bipartisan group of senators, but according to Reuters, lawmakers expect that it will soon pass.
Unfortunately, the bill contains serious flaws which undermine its entire mission statement.
As drafted, AICOA is intended to prevent self-preferencing, whereby tech companies promote their own products or services to their users, on the grounds that it could “materially harm competition.” For example, this would prevent Google from displaying Google Maps in search results, forcing users to take further steps if they would like directions to a particular place they had just searched for. Apple could be forbidden from pre-installing FaceTime or iMessage on its iPhones or told to open up its App Store to competitors.
Amazon, in particular, stridently opposes the bill. Earlier this month, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, wrote that the company feels singled out as “the only retailer…covered by this proposed legislation.” Indeed, the bill is written so narrowly that it only covers a handful of companies. Huseman writes that the bill would “degrade the value and quality of [Amazon] Prime” by forbidding the company from offering one- and two-day free shipping without allowing “other logistics providers” to fill those orders. Additionally, Huseman claims that the bill could “meaningfully jeopardize our marketplace” by subjecting Amazon to certain restrictions on usage of customer data that would not apply to “other retailers…such as Walmart, Target, and others.” Per Huseman, “we believe…the real, unstated goal of the legislation” is to “hurt” Amazon.
In response, Bill Baer of the nonpartisan Brookings Institution wrote that the bill is “more nuanced (and thus more complex) than that
Article from Reason.com