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Tech Oversight Project Executive Director Sacha Haworth Defends Biden’s Pro-Competition Agenda and Makes the Case For Robust Tech Action, Antitrust Reform

Feb 13, 2023

Link to the full interview can be found here.

WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, Sacha Haworth, the Tech Oversight Project’s Executive Director, joined C-SPAN’s Washington Journal to talk up President Biden’s State of the Union Address, antitrust, data privacy, and children and teens’ safety online. Haworth joined an hour-long panel program opposite Carl Szabo, General Counsel for NetChoice, which is a conservative Big Tech front organization financially sponsored by Google, Apple, Meta, and Amazon. Link to the full interview can be found here, and excerpts on various topics can be found below:

On the State of the Union:
“What I did hear Biden say at the SOTU: I heard him stand over a divided government and say the word ‘antitrust’ from the largest bully pulpit in the world. And that is the first time any president had even uttered the word ‘antitrust’ from a State of the Union address in nearly 50 years.

“So that shows to me that President Biden is going to preside over a new era of taking on the largest monopolies of the modern age, and that’s the four Big Tech companies – Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.

On Providing the FTC and DOJ with Increased Funding
“We need to give our government the tools to rein in the most egregious behavior of tech companies. Clearly, they are not going to self-regulate, and we saw that with the big tobacco fights in the 1990s when they were denying they even did harm.”

On Big Tech’s “Content Moderation” Strawman Argument Against Antitrust Reform:
“Antitrust reform does not address content moderation, and that’s a good thing.

“It reins in the powers of the four largest tech companies, who have been acting illegally. They have illegally been preferencing their own products over that of their competitors. They have been illegally colluding with one another to preserve each other’s core monopolies.”

On Why We Need Antitrust Reform:
“I think we’re far overdue for oversight over tech companies.

“Carl is right. The existence of a monopoly can be clear evidence of a market failure. Carl, guess what! I’m also here to tell you that there is also bipartisan agreement in going after the tech companies for antitrust reform.

“75% of Americans support reining in tech companies through oversight.

“The definition of ‘competition’ is more companies in the marketplace. The four largest tech companies are monopolies. They have bought up all their competitors. They use their monopoly power to unfairly preference their own products. Because consumers don’t have any choice, they are forced to return to them again and again. That’s a cycle Congress needs to address, and given the President’s State of the Union on Tuesday, we’re looking in that direction.

“Amazon does not provide the cheapest products out there, and that’s the whole point of the antitrust bill that Carl and his colleagues spent $250 million advocating against.

“Essentially the problem is that Amazon does not necessarily provide the cheapest product. It simply provides its own product. That’s the whole problem. Consumers don’t have a choice.

“Where else am I going to go online? Amazon has nearly 100% of the online marketplace. There’s no where else to go.

“Carl talked about competition and the idea that these four companies compete within each other. They would love for you to believe that. Remember who pays Carl’s bills.

“They all have an agreement that they have their core monopolies. Facebook has social media companies. Amazon has an online marketplace, and so on. And at the end of the day, they do not compete against one another.

“Mergers in this marketplace would be detrimental to the economy.”

On Tech’s Influence in Washington:
“I think that when you’re talking about who writes the laws you have to be clear about the amount of spending on the part of tech platforms to lobby Members of Congress to maintain the status quo. Two-hundred-fifty million dollars – that’s a quarter-of-a-billion – was just spent solely just against antitrust reform…That’s the fight that organizations like mine are up against.”

On Big Tech as a National Security Concern:
“We absolutely need to be manufacturing more of our materials in the United States. As a final point, I would mention that the four Big Tech companies all have massive interest in China.

“It brings up another point about the largest companies in the world.

“When a company reaches a certain size as a monopoly, it becomes something more than the nation in which it was founded. That’s a risk for national security. It’s a risk to our democracy. It’s a risk to our economy.”

On TikTok as a National Security Threat:
“I think TikTok is deserving of scrutiny. There are hearings planned, lawmakers are looking into the national security angles of Tiktok. I think it’s concerning not only that the company is based in China, but that it’s parent company has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. I think that’s a potential national security concern, and we should treat it for what it is.

“There’s also been concerns on TikTok about algorithmic bias – suppressing information about voting dates, which we know is a particularly insidious way of suppressing democracy on a platform that is increasingly used as news for youth.”

On Challenges Parents Face in Keeping Children and Teens Safe Online:
“I think what the caller is misinformed about is what parents are up against. Like Carl said, you can lie about your age to get on the internet…you can make an account anywhere. Companies will then take your data and sell it for a profit. So the moment your kid goes online, the game is lost.

“I think parents do a good job of looking out for their kids. Parents would be astounded to discover what their kids could be served within two clicks if they go to Youtube. There are studies that show you are only ever two clicks away from a radical, anti-government recruitment video, or you go on Instagram and you are one click away from the algorithm serving you tips on how to get skinny.

“I think what parents are up against is a behemoth of an algorithm that is designed to keep your kids online, that is designed to knowingly keep your kids addicted, and I don’t think anyone has a full appreciation of what parents are up against when we try to protect our kids.”

On Social Media Platforms’ Algorithms:
“The Facebook Whistleblower documents that were leaked last year revealed that these companies are designing algorithms to get kids addicted. They are designing a product to keep kids online to continue to serve them content that keeps them online that makes them depressed, that serves them ideas for self-harm. Not only did they design it. They did it knowingly. They have commissioned studies on the teenage brain. That’s terrifying.

“I don’t want a social media company harvesting data from my kid., following my kid around on the internet all day, and then selling that data to the highest bidder. That’s what’s terrifying.

“It’s a detriment to our kids and our teens. Talk to any parent. Talk to any educator. It’s clear we have a mental health crisis among our kids and our youth in this country. What surprises me is that there are people willing to advocate for these platforms’ ability to continue to serve videos or content to kids that promotes self-harm, anorexia, bulimia, encouraging depression – god forbid suicide.”

On ChatGPT:
“It’s early days yet – AI, even TikTok. What we’ve seen in the past is these tech giants gobble up competitors – just like Instagram didn’t start as a part of Facebook. What concerns me is that we have to make sure that what’s happened in other industries and other sectors of the online industry doesn’t happen with new technologies like AI.”

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