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Senate Panel Approves Antitrust Bill to Limit Big Tech Platform

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A committee in the Washington Senate approves an antitrust law that prohibits the largest technology platforms from favoring their products and services over competitors, winning supporters of stricter Big Tech regulations against fierce industry opposition. Brought.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act has moved to the side of the Senate floor, and some Senators have said they would like to see additional changes before supporting the bill. Thursday’s 16-6 votes at the Senate Judiciary Committee showed that the bill had bipartisan support, but also raised bipartisan concerns.

The bill was specifically designed to target a small number of specific companies, most of which are headquartered in my hometown, criticizing the elements of the bill with Senator Alex Padilla of the California Democratic Party. Said Senator Dianne Feinstein. While regulating the behavior of only a handful of businesses, it is difficult to understand the legitimacy of a bill that allows all other businesses to continue to engage in exactly the same behavior.

Despite their reservations, both California senators voted in favor of advancing the bill.

Clearing the Senate panel was a big win for tech advocates facing lobbying in the tech industry. Senator Amy Klobuchar (Democratic Party of Minnesota), a key sponsor, was the first vote in the Senate to submit a major technology bill on competition to the Senate since the dawn of the Internet.

However, Feinstein is concerned about the hurdles ahead. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) Has not brought a similar antitrust law to the vote in the midst of divisions within the caucuses, and lawmakers said before the mid-term campaign accelerated later this year. There is limited time to resolve the differences.

Senator Alex Padilla, Democratic Party of California, voted to promote online law of innovation and choice in the United States, despite expressing concern about the elements of the bill.Photo: Michael Reynolds / Shutterstock

The bill includes Amazon.com Inc.’s e-commerce site, Alphabet Inc.’s Google search engine, Apple Inc.’s App Store, and Meta Platforms Inc. Targets major technology platforms such as Facebook. These companies have been working for months to suspend or change the bill and have a team of lobbyists and executives in Washington. Some have funded advocates against the bill and publicly warned that the bill could disrupt popular services.

Yelp Inc. And Sonos Inc. Proponents, including small tech companies such as, say the law benefits consumers by promoting competition on platforms that are abusing market power. Senators in favor of the bill say they will make exceptions to protect consumer-favorite features.

The bill is not intended to dissolve Big Tech or destroy the products and services that Big Tech offers, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a top Republican member of the Justice Commission. Said. The purpose of this bill is to prevent acts that hinder competition.

Nonetheless, lawmakers amended the bill on Thursday to address industry concerns. According to Glasley, one of the new provisionings is designed to include large foreign-owned technology platforms, such as the popular TikTok app owned by Chinas ByteDance Ltd.

Apple’s hardware, software, and services work so well that they are often referred to as walled gardens. This idea has been at the heart of recent antitrust scrutiny and Epic vs. Apple proceedings. Johanna Stern of the WSJ went to a real walled garden to explain everything.Photo Illustration: Adele Morgan / Wall Street Journal

Utah Senator Mike Lee, a top Republican member of the Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee, shared concerns about monopoly power in the high-tech industry, but the bill was overwritten and entangled. I was worried that it could cause it.

Lee said that by creating a strong incentive to simply stop doing business with third parties, it could actually establish the four companies it aims for. This can crush thousands of small businesses and, in fact, exacerbate competition in the online market.

A similar law passed the House Judiciary Committee last June, but has since been stalled in the House, partly due to skeptical views among California Democrats.

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A bill advanced in the Senate on Thursday would make it illegal for the largest Internet platforms to unfairly endorse their own products and services than those of other companies that use the platform. It lists several categories of illegal activity, such as platforms that prioritize themselves in search results and platforms that use private data from another business to compete with the same business.

Klobuchar said the provision reflects tech equipment makers Sonos and Tile Inc.’s testimony of how tech giants have made it difficult for tech giants to run their products on large platforms. I did. She also pointed out an article in The Wall Street Journal about Amazon accessing data to copy products created by sellers on online marketplaces.

Over and over again, I’ve heard about how these companies are abusing their power, Klobuchar said. At some point, we need road rules to make things fair.

Opponents of the bill say companies are wrong to profit from the platforms they create, and discouraging them from doing so will hinder future innovation.

The two companies say that the legislative language is so widespread that it can outlaw services like consumers and businesses. Amazon states that it may not be able to allow other companies to sell in its market. Google says it may not be able to feature Google Maps in search results. According to Apple, the bill could undermine the ability to enforce permissions on third-party apps before collecting data about iPhone users.

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Both companies did not comment further on Thursday. The Computer and Communications Industry Association, a leading industry association for businesses, said the bill would jeopardize US digital leadership and jeopardize consumer security and privacy.

Senators who support the bill note that there are exceptions to features and platform features that improve user privacy.

Proton Technologies AG, whose ProtonMail email service competes with Google’s Gmail, has called voting a step towards revitalizing innovation in the United States.

The question with Big Tech isn’t necessarily that it’s grown that much, but instead it’s how it’s grown and what it does with its power. In both respects, the answer is cartel-style behaviour, said Proton CEO Andy Yen.

Bill proponents added more exceptions on Thursday. One new provision seems to address Apple’s concerns by stating that the platform is not responsible for requesting consent before granting access to user data. The other is exempt from service fee subscriptions such as Amazon Prime.

Lawmakers have also expanded the scope of the platform covered by the bill to include large foreign-affiliated Internet platforms. This is a clear response to concerns that the original bill appears to have put US tech giants at a disadvantage.

In general, the law applies to companies with a market capitalization of more than $ 550 billion and more than 50 million monthly active users who are considered important trading partners for other companies to access their customers.

The Federal Trade Commission decides which technology platform meets its definitional provisions relating to some Republicans. The list is short and is expected to include the largest US technology companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft Corp.

Some senators said further hearings on the bill should take place before the vote on Thursday, and the bill would need changes to secure their support on the Senate floor.

Proponents of the bill met with White House officials on Wednesday to secure their support. The Biden administration has not yet taken a position on this issue.

Write to Ryan Tracy at [email protected]

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