Bipartisan Group of US Senators to Introduce Bill to Rein In Big Tech

By Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
October 14, 2021 Updated: October 14, 2021

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, and Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) say they will introduce an antitrust bill aimed to control discriminatory Big Tech practices.

“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,” Klobuchar said in an Oct. 14 statement.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which is similar to a bill introduced earlier this year by House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.), would make it illegal for large online tech companies to engage in discriminatory behavior, including disadvantaging rivals.

Cicilline’s bill and a bill by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) were advanced by the House Judiciary Committee in June.

“Once these bills are signed into law, they will help ensure lower prices and greater choice for consumers, higher wages for workers, and more opportunities for small businesses to get ahead. I look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan fashion to get the job done and send these bills to President Biden’s desk,” Cicilline said in a June statement.

Klobuchar and Grassley’s Senate bill would have dramatic implications for companies such as Google, Apple, and Amazon, which have been suspected of positioning their own products above their competitors in order to generate higher profits. Third-party businesses on Amazon have suspected the company positions its own similar private label products over theirs.

The giant tech companies have denied any wrongdoing.

A coalition of 32 attorneys general from around the nation have urged Congress to make improvements to the nation’s antitrust laws. They sent a letter (pdf) to the House and Senate Judiciary committees in September to voice their support for such measures.

“These include provisions to further enhance consumer protections from unlawful and irresponsible mergers and business practices as well as necessary improvements to ensure that competition and innovation are not stifled. In addition, we urge Congress to include in the legislation a provision confirming that the states are sovereigns that stand on equal footing with federal enforcers under federal antitrust law,” the letter stated.

“As Congress considers how best to improve antitrust law, we encourage the House and Senate to prioritize protecting competition and innovation.”

There also has been opposition to such a measure.

“This bill, which has emerged from the House Judiciary Committee, seeks to turn the largest online services in the United States from the ever-evolving firms they are today into ossified infrastructure, no more innovative than the local water utility. Right off the bat, the bill is anti-competitive, not to mention ahistorical,” wrote Patrick Hedger, vice president of policy at Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

In addition, a group of tech businesses sent a letter (pdf) to the committees, opposing the measure.

“At a time when voters are looking to Congress to address the country’s most pressing challenges, it seems hard to believe that Congress is instead on the verge of banning Amazon Prime and Amazon Basics; banning the preinstallation of iMessage and FaceTime on iPhones; and banning Google from including Google Maps in its search results,” wrote the group of 15 tech businesses, including Americans for Prosperity, Chamber of Progress, Computer and Communications Industry Association, and Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.).

Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq