FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 11, 2022
Contact: [email protected], 571-316-6421
WASHINGTON, DC – From grassroots action on Capitol Hill to editorial boards across the country, momentum continues to build for the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act. With the surge in news coverage, monopolies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are feeling the pressure, and the American people agree: It’s time to rein in Big Tech.
Check out a wrap up of coverage below:
As antitrust efforts ramp up in Congress, Big Tech is fighting back, unleashing an army of lobbyists, enlisting business groups to apply pressure and engaging in fearmongering to avoid critical regulation.
Regardless, lawmakers must forge ahead and support legislation that reins in the tech giants’ worst impulses, ensures fair competition and protects consumers and small businesses.
Tonight commuters leaving Capitol Hill will be greeted with a light show projecting a message cast onto buildings: “Monopolies must go.”
The art installation is part of a campaign dubbed “Antitrust Day” to encourage lawmakers to advance tech-focused regulations before a window closes to vote the measures into law.
Companies including Yelp Inc., Match Group Inc., and Spotify Technology SA are urging users to write their representatives encouraging them to pass laws in a package of bills designed to curb the power of giant internet companies.
The coalition is focusing on two pieces of legislation — the Open App Markets Act and the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. The first would open up app stores operated by Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, while the second is designed to prevent large internet platforms like Amazon.com Inc. from giving priority to their own products and services.
More than 100 companies and think tanks are participating in the action organized in part by Fight for the Future, which coordinated online protests in favor of net neutrality in 2012. Advocacy groups involved include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, MoveOn, and Public Knowledge, which was founded by Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn. President Joe Biden’s adviser on technology and competition policy, Tim Wu, also tweeted support.
The Justice Department’s antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter wished viewers a “Happy Antitrust Day” during a speech at an enforcers’ summit Monday. Last week, the Justice Department formally voiced support for the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would prohibit dominant platforms from giving an advantage to their own products, such as Google Maps or Apple Music.
Lobbying around the tech-focused antitrust bills is peaking as the window closes for major legislation before the start of midterm campaigns. Two more lobbying events are planned this week by pro-industry coalitions opposed to new antitrust legislation.
If you want to know how worried an industry is about a piece of pending legislation, a decent metric is how apocalyptic its predictions are about what the bill would do. By that standard, Big Tech is deeply troubled by the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.
The infelicitously named bill is designed to prevent dominant online platforms—like Apple and Facebook and, especially, Google and Amazon—from giving themselves an advantage over other businesses that must go through them to reach customers. As one of two antitrust bills voted out of committee by a strong bipartisan vote (the other would regulate app stores), it may be this Congress’ best, even only, shot to stop the biggest tech companies from abusing their gatekeeper status.
“It is the ball game,” says Luther Lowe, senior vice president of policy at Yelp and a longtime Google antagonist. “That’s how these guys stay big and relevant. If they can’t put their hand on the scale, then it makes them vulnerable to small and medium-size companies eating their market share.”
We’ve seen a torrent of activity in the past two years as lawmakers try to advance vital tech reform to rein in Big Tech platforms that stifle competition. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO) would be a significant step forward on the road to solving this problem, without undermining the ability of companies to take action on harmful content on their platforms. But baseless concerns about this legislation risk undermining the prospect of tangible progress, and it’s critical that public officials, advocacy groups and the public not take the bait.
AICO, which would reinvigorate competition by prohibiting the biggest tech platforms from artificially favoring their own services over innovative competitors’, has passed committees in both the House and Senate. It is the best chance in recent history to reestablish a fair digital marketplace and spur entrepreneurship. As we hurtle toward the midterm elections, the window for passing major legislation is closing. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should bring the Act to a vote as soon as possible.
The big picture: The pleas aim to boost support on Capitol Hill for proposals that would ban Google and Amazon from favoring their own products in an anticompetitive way and come as key bills await floor votes in the House and Senate.
Driving the news: The antitrust day of action organized by Fight for the Future and other advocacy groups is meant to deluge lawmakers with support for antitrust bills, including Senate bills that would prohibit self-preferencing and regulate mobile app store practices.
Participating companies include Match Group, Automattic, Spotify, ProtonMail, Basecamp and others.
Yelp plans to link to the campaign page from its website and mobile app, while DuckDuckGo will have a link on its search results page, according to Fight for the Future.
A coalition of small tech companies and small business advocates have teamed up to support a series of bipartisan anti-Big Tech antitrust bills that are gaining momentum in Congress.
The coalition, led by Fight for the Future, a liberal advocacy organization critical of the tech companies, is also aggressively condemning tech giants such as Amazon and Google for reportedly running fake grassroots campaigns that claim to have the support of small businesses to oppose the bills.
“They’ve resorted to funding lies and astroturf operations in order to fake grassroots support for their corporate policy goals,” said Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future.
“It’s almost like they don’t care if they get caught. Their goal is to sow enough doubt that it gives lawmakers cover to vote against their constituents’ interests and in favor of corporate interests,” said Greer.
The bipartisan antitrust legislative package, which passed the House Judiciary Committee last June, includes six sweeping antitrust bills aimed at reining in tech companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Three of the House bipartisan bills also have Senate counterparts, which have also advanced out of committee on a bipartisan basis.
The legislation marks Washington’s most significant and serious attempt yet to reshape the technology industry.
Tech company allies are due to spend Monday shaking their fists at antitrust reform advocates as both groups increase the pressure on lawmakers in what could be a final push for competition proposals. You can bet both sides will try to claim the mantle of everyday users.
It’s been a bad week for the voices supporting Big Tech that purport to come from the regular public.
A Washington Post report revealed how a Republican campaign firm helped Meta try to take down TikTok, which included promoting news stories about damaging trends on the service and placing op-eds and letters portraying TikTok as a threat to young people.
Separate reports in CNBC and POLITICO spilled how several supposed members of a small business group that routinely supports Big Tech had never even heard of the organization.
These aren’t just gossipy stories about which consultants are collecting Big Tech’s checks: Rather, they highlight how much of the “public” that takes part in tech policy conversations doesn’t actually represent actual grassroots users.
Tech companies and their allies will try to shake that off next week to convince lawmakers that antitrust reform proposals are, in essence, bad for consumers. But a coalition of small and medium-sized tech and actual grassroots groups will be dogging them.
On Monday, NetChoice, the self-described “most aggressive trade association” in tech, will be leading conservative groups in lawmaker meetings to push back on antitrust bills including Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s American Innovation and Choice Online Act.
Also on Monday, digital rights group Fight for the Future is coordinating its own “Day of Action” alongside consumer groups and companies such as DuckDuckGo, Spotify and Yelp. They’re urging honest-to-goodness people to tell lawmakers what users want.
“It really is transparently a bit of a ragtag band,” said Evan Greer, Fight for the Future’s director. “This is like the rest of the internet rising up together to knock the kings and queens of Silicon Valley off their thrones a little bit.”
The effort to pass legislation regulating Big Tech has involved a lot of talk and little action. Now the Justice Department is trying to give it a nudge.
Acting assistant attorney general Peter Hyun wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week expressing support for two pieces of legislation, led, respectively, by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Reps. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Lance Gooden (R-Tex.). Both bills, which would restrict platforms’ ability to give favorable treatment to their own products and services over those of their competitors that also use their platforms, have cleared committee and await votes on the floors of the two chambers.