Poll: Tech Regulation Should Focus on Privacy and Security—Not Breaking Up Big Tech Companies
Americans have different priorities than lawmakers when it comes to tech regulation. People don’t want to see Congress use antitrust law against big tech, according to a new poll from AXIS Research. Tech regulations, in general, are low on people’s list of things the government should prioritize.
Only 1 percent of voters surveyed said it should be the top priority. And if Congress is going to spend time passing new tech laws, people think these should be aimed at issues surrounding security and privacy, not competition. Given a list of tech-related topics Congress could focus on, 21 percent of people chose data privacy as the top priority. This was followed by protecting consumers from scams and malware (12 percent), measures to protect children online (11 percent), combating misinformation online (11 percent), and helping to address cyber attacks (11 percent). Only 4 percent said “breaking up large tech companies into smaller ones” was most important and only 3 percent said “limiting large technology companies from growing further” was a major priority.
When pollsters described provisions of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act—an antitrust bill that would make it illegal for Apple, Google, Facebook, and other big tech companies to prioritize their own products or content—79 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 59 percent of Democrats were somewhat or strongly opposed to it. People also were less likely to favor regulation that creates different rules for businesses based on size, as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act does. Fifty-seven percent said they preferred having “one set of regulations for all businesses.”
The poll was conducted at the beginning of July and involved 1,219 likely 2022 voters. Thirty-six percent identified as Republicans, 38 percent as Democrats, 23 percent as independents, 1 percent as Libertarians, and 2 percent as something else.
It found that antitrust law that focuses on stopping companies from getting too big is not what consumers want. Asked what the government should prioritize “when it comes to regulating companies,” only 16 percent chose “keeping businesses from getting too big.” Thirty percent said the government should focus on more choices for consumers and more than half—54 percent—said lowering prices should be the priority.
This is in line with the consumer welfare model of antitrust law, which judges whether certain business conduct is illegal based on whether it raises or lowers prices and whether it benefits consumers. In contrast, officials in the Biden administration—like Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan and Tim Wu, an adviser on the White House National Economic Council—and some Democrats in Congress believe the goal should be keeping business from getting too big and protecting competitors to big businesses, even if doing so raises prices or burdens consumers. (And some Republicans seem to think the goal of antitrust law should simply be punishing tech companies that make decisions they don’t like.)
These poll results are somewhat at odds with some other polling on this issue. For instance, a 2019 poll from the progressive think tank Data for Progress found that “two-thirds of Americans want to break up companies like Amazon and Google,” per a Vox headline.
How can polling on this be so different? Because pollsters often use leading questions.
In the Data for Progress survey, people were asked “would you support or oppose a policy breaking up big tech companies by undoing recent mergers, like Facebook buying Instagram, so there is more competition in the future?” Another question asks if people would support breaking up big tech “to ensure that platforms like Google and Amazon don’t prioritize content they benefit from financially?”
These questions—reported as people simply supporting big-tech breakups—contain a lot of implicit assumptions. They tacitly suggest that current conditions are negative in some way (big companies are rigging the playing field or quashing competition) and that “breaking up big tech companies” would invariably fix these problems.
The Daily Beast recently cited 2021 polling from Data for Progress which p
Article from Reason.com