Judiciary committee on path to advance entire big tech antitrust bill package

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 14
Following a debate that extended into the early morning, the US House Judiciary Committee has advanced all but one of the bills before it that focus on curbing Big Tech and its ability to promote its own products and services over others -- and the last one will likely get the nod on Thursday.




After a Wednesday approval of a bill to increase the antitrust enforcement budget, the committee has now also backed all but one of the bills concerning Big Tech market dominance. The bills have advanced despite lobbying efforts from Google and Apple, which included CEO Tim Cook reportedly phoning Speaker Nancy Pelosi directly.

Central to the package is the American Choice and Innovation Online Act, which is concerned with preventing dominant platforms from unfairly promoting their own services. According to the Wall Street Journal, it was approved by a vote of 24 to 20.

The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching, or Access, Act, was passed 25 to 19. This bill aims to give the FTC extensive new powers to set standards for the large tech companies.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R - OH), was among those objecting to extending the FTC's powers. He argued that gave unprecedented power and even the ability to impose a political agenda on the firms.

Broader concerns regarding all of the bills was reportedly also debated by both Democrats and Republicans. Reportedly, issues were raised over the fairness of targeting only the largest technology platforms.

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal says that lawmakers questioned whether Microsoft had successfully lobbied to be excluded from the proposed legislation. Rep. David Cicilline (D - RI) denied that any firm was exempted, and separately a Microsoft spokesperson claimed there had been no lobbying.

"At its core, this issue is fundamentally about whether or not we have an economy where businesses fighting for economic survival can actually succeed," said Cicilline. He claimed that the unchecked power of the largest technology firms was a threat to the economy, and even to American democracy.

"The president is encouraged by the bipartisan work to address problems created by big tech platforms," said a White House official. "We hope the legislative process continues to move forward on these bipartisan proposals, and we look forward to working with Congress to continue developing these ideas."

With the Committee expected to approve the entire package after it reconvenes at 11:00 AM on Thursday, the entire package will likely move forward to debate and a vote by the full House. It is not yet clear when that may take place, and the White House reportedly suggested that more work was needed on the legislation.

Apple has not responded to the outcome of the vote, though it did release a public document and an open letter to the committee ahead of it.

Google's vice president of government affairs and public policy, Mark Isakowitz, did tell the Wall Street Journal that Google wants more debate on the topics.

"American consumers and small businesses would be shocked at how these bills would break many of their favorite services," he said. "This would all dramatically undermine US technology leadership, damage the way small businesses connect with consumers and raise serious privacy and security concerns."

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,586member
    This issue could put Apple and Google on the same side for once.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 8
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,933member
    "American consumers and small businesses would be shocked at how these bills would break many of their favorite services," he said. "This would all dramatically undermine US technology leadership, damage the way small businesses connect with consumers and raise serious privacy and security concerns"

    There is nothing intrinsically bad in what he is describing.

    Having 'favourite' services break could easily be deemed a logical cause of any efforts to loosen mega companies' grip on those services. Consumers may well find 'new' favourites. How many people remember Myspace? 

    It does not necessarily have to undermine US tech 'leadership' as other US companies could come to the fore. If he was speaking of US tech companies on the world stage, then many would actively welcome that and that itself is something which competition watchdogs around the globe might actually desire.

    Before Google reached its current status, it did fine with Gmail and Drive and a very basic YouTube.

    Having real competition overseen by legislation and watchdogs could be a very good thing if implemented correctly. 
    baconstangelijahg
  • Reply 3 of 8
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,254member
    This issue could put Apple and Google on the same side for once.
    They're on the same side on many different issues and technologies. This whole Apple hates Google and vice-versa storyline a few AI members would still like to promote is a mirage. They have more in common and work together far more often than is recognized by most of the residents. 
    muthuk_vanalingamelijahg
  • Reply 4 of 8
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,719member
    I don’t see much in these bills that would actually help consumers or address the behavior of Big Tech.  Still massive ad tracking/data mining, selective censorship, and abuse of near-monopoly power with search results being manipulated for various business or ideological reasons.  Apple is the least of the problem in my view.  Google, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook are the major offenders.  The first two basically own the internet.  The others have all but monopolized the public square, and work with the first two big companies to stifle competition (e.g. alternative social media sites).  It shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  Tech companies having this much power and the ability to limit speech is bad for everyone.  Just look at what happened with the lab leak “theory.”  They quite literally may have endangered public health.  
    mark fearingbaconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 8
    sdw2001 said: Tech companies having this much power and the ability to limit speech is bad for everyone. 
    Private companies can limit speech in any manner they choose. It's always been like that. I realize that people like to try and argue that things like Facebook or Twitter or YouTube are "public" forums, but they're not. They're all privately owned businesses. If YouTube wanted to switch to 100% cat videos, that's not a violation of anyone's speech rights. 
    gatorguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 8
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,283member
    sdw2001 said: Tech companies having this much power and the ability to limit speech is bad for everyone. 
    Private companies can limit speech in any manner they choose. It's always been like that. I realize that people like to try and argue that things like Facebook or Twitter or YouTube are "public" forums, but they're not. They're all privately owned businesses. If YouTube wanted to switch to 100% cat videos, that's not a violation of anyone's speech rights. 
    In fact what they allow to happen on their platform can be a liability on several fronts. Legal liability for allowing illegal behavior and commercial liability if their become linked to the actions or comments of users. If Facebook allowed sex trafficking without attempting to thwart it, they would face both legal and commercial liability. They would be greatly diminished. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 8
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,283member
    The problem is these politicians only care about the power. Apple is successful because they continue to bring more and more value to their customers and we are willing to pay more for that value. They don’t hold a majority position in any markets, so they have to redefine what a monopoly actually is to even bother them. 

    Apple should stop all stock repurchases and dividends going forward for the foreseeable future. That money should be used to build a new legal fund to aggressively fight against those attempting to punish their success by undermining the ecosystem we prefer and paid good money to join. 

    Would that hurt Apple’s stock price? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. How has that helped Apple beyond employee compensation. They are not using any of the money invest. They are making far more money than they can spend, so using it to protect our ecosystem is the best use for that money. I see it as an investment. 
    edited June 24 baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 8
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,719member
    sdw2001 said: Tech companies having this much power and the ability to limit speech is bad for everyone. 
    Private companies can limit speech in any manner they choose. It's always been like that. I realize that people like to try and argue that things like Facebook or Twitter or YouTube are "public" forums, but they're not. They're all privately owned businesses. If YouTube wanted to switch to 100% cat videos, that's not a violation of anyone's speech rights. 
    The problem with this traditional argument is twofold: First, the sheer size and scope of the platforms arguably makes them a public forum or “common carrier.”  This makes them no different than telephone carriers or railroads.  They have essentially become public utilities.  My water and power companies are “private” too.  That doesn’t mean they can discriminate against me for my political views or penalize me by cutting off service because of some ridiculous violation.  These platforms have become essential communications tools.  

    Secondly, they are clearly using their near-monopoly power to stifle competition, seemingly even coordinating to do so.  Google, for example, clearly promote it’s own products and favorite products in search results. Other platforms accept advertising dollars and make businesses dependent on them, only to demonetize or cancel creators’ accounts and thereby livelihoods…for very vague reasons.  Take a look at the battle that comedian/commentator Steven Crowder has had with YouTube. They often cannot even give him reasons why his account was suspended or other features limited.  Being a private company does not give one the right to commit fraud or business interference.  

    I will add that big tech is clearly guilty of election interference as well.  From suppressing news stories to directing get out the vote messages where they please, to a whole host of other actions, this is something that needs to be investigated.  

    The first step is to declare these large platforms common carriers.  It preserves their legal protections and requires them not to discriminate on ideological grounds.  
    edited June 24 yojimbo007watto_cobra
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