The Senate bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, provides a significant boost to tech critics and anti-monopolists by creating rules of the road for Big Tech platforms such as Facebook, Apple,Google, Amazon, and more, who all run their own marketplaces for products or information, ensuring they cannot unjustly give preference to their own products and services.
Third-party sellers on Amazon, for example, have suspected the platform ranks its own similar private label products over their own. Travel or local search sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor have complained that Google unfairly lowers their links in search results in favor of prime placement of its Google Maps tool. The platforms have denied any misconduct and say their decisions are based on determinations about what will make up the best experience for users.
“Congress and tech companies have plenty of work to do to make the Internet better, safer, and healthier -- but instead of doing that, this bill takes a hammer to tech products that consumers love,” wrote Adam Kovacevich, CEO of Chamber of Progress, a center-left group backed by Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, among others. “Preventing Amazon from selling Amazon Basics and banning Google’s maps from its search results isn’t going to do anything to make the Internet better for families.”
“As dominant digital platforms — some of the biggest companies our world has ever seen — increasingly give preference to their own products and services, we must put policies in place to ensure small businesses and entrepreneurs still have the opportunity to succeed in the digital marketplace," Sen. Klobuchar said in a statement.
Eight senators have signed their names to the legislation thus far, including Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, as well as Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Cory Booker of New Jersey. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, a vocal critic of the Big Tech companies, is also expected to express his support for the new legislation.
The bill will focus on establishing new rules to halt anti-competitive behavior among dominant online platforms, give antitrust enforcers such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department new powers to tackle the companies, and prevent self-preferencing behavior by the tech giants.
"Big Tech needs to be held accountable if they behave in a discriminatory manner. Our bill will help create a more even playing field and ensure that small businesses are able to compete with these platforms," Grassley declared in a statement.