Big Tech critics in both Democratic and Republican congressional camps are inching closer to new antitrust regulations. The problem with their efforts is that in swinging at major tech companies, they may end up hitting consumers and knocking down small businesses and mom-and-pop digital shops.
News is circulating in Washington about Republicans in the Senate potentially crossing the aisle to pass antitrust regulations. While we don’t know for certain which proposals might overcome a Senate stalemate, we have clues into the kinds of legislation that senators might consider.
In June, the House Judiciary Committee passed six bills (mostly introduced by liberal lawmakers) aimed at reigning in the Big Tech companies Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
- H.R. 3825 (Ending Platform Monopolies Act) would prohibit platforms from operating a line of business that creates a conflict of interest such as selling competing goods or services to those of third parties on their platforms (i.e., Amazon’s Marketplace).
- H.R. 3826 (Platform Competition and Opportunity Act) would prohibit dominant digital platforms from acquiring would-be rivals.
- H.R. 3816 (American Choice and Innovation Online Act) would prohibit platforms from prioritizing their own products over those of competitors.
- H.R. 3849 (ACCESS Act) would force platforms to make it easier for consumers to transfer their personal information from one digital service to another (data portability).
- H.R. 3843 (Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act) would increase merger fees that government collects from companies to fund enforcement efforts.
- H.R. 3460 (State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act) would give state attorneys general control over which courts hear antitrust cases.
Here are 3 key takeaways that Americans should know about all of these bills:
- They will do nothing to stop the censorship of conservatives’ speech online. A major reason many on the right support stepped-up antitrust regulation of Big Tech is that they are tired of the unequal treatment that conservatives seem to receive for content that simply presents a different view. This is not violent, extremist, threatening, or dangerous speech, but opposing viewpoints on a given topic. Kicking the President of the United States off of various platforms but allowing terrorist spokespeople to spew their anti-American is the perfect example of this. Yet, none of these bills comes close to addressing censorship. In fact, they may lead to greater censorship or more difficulty in getting diverse viewpoints in front of many eyes.
- They will hurt small businesses. Platforms like Google and Amazon offer marketplaces for small businesses to sell and promote their goods and services. They make it possible for women to find customers one block away and one continent away. As I noted in my previous blog, some of these antitrust bills could make these marketplaces all but disappear. This is the opposite of what antitrust laws are meant to do. They should leave more competition not less.
- They will end consumer conveniences. Imagine getting a new iPhone with absolutely no apps pre-installed including maps and weather, or not being able to cross-post pictures of your kids to Instagram and Facebook at the same time, or no YouTube videos in Google search results, or no more Amazon Prime free-shipping. These are the conveniences that consumers enjoy made possible by companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon innovating in new ways that improve their users’ experiences, cuts down on time, and improve engagement across platforms. Saving time and increasing efficiency are good for consumers, but these bills work to undermine what consumers value about innovation.
Conservative senators considering hitching their wagons to the left’s antitrust caravan should be careful that in their righteous zeal to stop conservative censorship, they do not push forward regulations that will hurt consumers and small businesses.