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A bipartisan technology antitrust bill could soon be passed. That’s still a bad idea.

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There is growing concern among both left and right politicians to take control of “Big Tech.” There are various specific complaints, but there is a general agreement that very large tech companies such as Apple, Alphabet (owning Google), Meta (owning Facebook), and Amazon simply use too much power.

One bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), aims to make “certain discriminatory acts” illegal when implemented by a technology platform. The bill, sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (DMinn.) And a group of bipartisan senators, has been around since last year, but Reuters expects the bill to pass soon.

Unfortunately, the bill contains serious flaws that undermine the entire mission statement.

As drafted, AICOA aims to prevent technology companies from giving priority to promoting their products and services to users because they can “has significant damage to competition.” For example, if this prevents Google from displaying Google Maps in search results and you want to know directions to the specific location you just searched for, you need to take further steps. Apple may be banned from pre-installing FaceTime or iMessage on the iPhone, or may be told to open the App Store to competitors.

Amazon, in particular, is strongly opposed to the bill. Earlier this month, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, wrote that he felt the company was selected as “the only retailer subject to the bill.” Indeed, the bill is so narrow that it covers only a handful of companies. Huseman said the bill was ” [Amazon] “Prime” by prohibiting the company from offering one or two days of free shipping without allowing “other logistics providers” to process these orders. In addition, Huseman claims that the bill could “endanger the market” by imposing usage restrictions on Amazon, which does not apply to “other retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, etc.” Customer data List of. According to Huseman, the “real, unstated goal of the law” is to “hurt” Amazon.

In response, Bill Bear of the nonpartisan Brookings Institution wrote that the bill “has more subtle nuances (and is therefore more complex).” Baer says AICOA should first convince federal district courts that it may have meaningful anti-competitive effects, rather than banning certain actions. I am doing it. In addition, Amazon or other Covered Services have “opportunities to affirmative defense,” such as “actions necessary to prevent legal violations, protect user safety and privacy, or maintain or strengthen our core.” .. Platform feasibility “or”[had] It does not do any significant harm to the competition, nor does it do so. “

But that’s little comfort. Currently, Amazon only persuades consumers to buy their products, but under AICOA, it needs to further convince judges that the methods and practices are not sufficiently anti-competitive. In addition, the penalty for a breach is “less than 15 percent” of your total income during the “period in which the breach occurred”. Baer admits that “the greatest civil punishment is severe,” but shakes it off by saying, “In our federal judicial system … the greatest punishment is rarely imposed.”

This week, four Democratic senators sent Klobuchar a letter detailing their concerns about AICOA. They are worried that the bill would make it illegal to “discriminate in the application or enforcement of the Terms of Service in a way that would cause significant damage to competition.” This “endangers current content moderation practices” by stopping the platform from moderating content. In fact, Apple’s App Store, which is the subject of the bill, now requires app makers to filter out “offensive content.”

Writing in WIRED, Gilad Edelman found this argument “weak”. However, it should be noted that for some lawmakers this is their clear intention. During the bill’s markup session, Senator Ted Cruz (RTexas) said the technology platform should be responsible for content moderation decisions, “I’m very happy to release the lawyer in the trial.” Told.

On Tuesday, Klobshire tweeted, “Because it’s a PRO-business, companies support our bill,” linking to a news article citing “dozens” of companies and organizations. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Chambers of Commerce in 46 states announced on Wednesday that they would oppose the bill. The Chamber of Commerce said the bill “shifts the focus of antitrust law from promoting competition to protecting competitors from competition” and “allows other companies to freely engage in exactly the same acts, while some It will punish companies for fierce competition. “

“In the future, the federal government will decide whether companies can offer innovation, low prices, or free shipping and other services, or whether such fierce competition is unfair.”

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://reason.com/2022/06/17/a-bipartisan-tech-antitrust-bill-may-soon-pass-its-still-a-bad-idea/

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