Congress is coming for big tech—here's how and why

Asia's Tech News Daily

A new bipartisan Senate bill likely to be introduced early next week would make it illegal for big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google to promote their own products and services more than those of their rivals on their own platforms, an act also known as “self-preferencing.” 

© Benjamin Sow / Unsplash New legislation may impact big tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

The bill was announced on Thursday by its co-sponsors: Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Its intention is to outlaw certain behaviors that lawmakers consider to be anticompetitive. 

“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 a statement. “This bill will do just that, while also providing consumers with the benefit of greater choice online.”

If the bill passes, it would show that Republicans and Democrats are ready to converge on trying to check the power of big tech companies. 

“I think there’s this real bipartisan recognition that the internet of today is a lot different than the internet of 20 years ago in terms of it being highly centralized,” says Mitch Stoltz, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We kind of lost the promise of the early internet of really empowering individuals when most of our communications and our commerce and so on are basically passing through those five companies,” he adds, referring to Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Apple.  

[Related: Facebook has an explanation for its massive Monday outage]

Klobuchar told The Washington Post that the bill is simply an update to competition laws for the digital era, as existing antitrust laws “written in the era of railroads and oil barons are not equipped to address the unique ways that Silicon Valley can harm competition and consumers.” 

In June, House lawmakers already passed similar bills through the Judiciary Committee. Those bills are currently on the House floor, waiting for a vote. 

The way Stoltz sees it, the antitrust laws of today are too broad. ”They’re written to cover the whole economy and to cover a wide range of conduct. But the way they’ve been interpreted in recent years is that courts will only really step in when a company’s conduct raises prices to consumers,” he says. “It’s not very good at recognizing other forms of harm.” 

Anti-big tech sentiments have been snowballing already for several years, and this new bill is the latest legislative move that attempts to regulate the giants that increasingly dominate our everyday social lives. 

[Related: The Facebook whistleblower’s Congressional hearing was a ‘big tobacco moment’ for tech]

The new bill is a culmination of increased scrutiny over the activities of big tech companies, especially over the last few years. Klobuchar told the Wall Street Journal that support for these efforts have been further boosted by the recent Congressional testimony by the Facebook whistleblower. 

In a tweet on Oct 4, Klobuchar wrote that “when companies face little competition & have no rules of the road, we know what happens—they play fast & loose—or to quote Facebook, they ‘move fast & break things.’ That’s why I continue to advocate for much-needed changes to our laws on antitrust, privacy, & consumer safety.” 

Though Stoltz comments that new bills and increased scrutiny are good and necessary development, he warns that “a danger with any sorts of these big tech laws is creating a regulatory burden that the largest companies can meet and smaller companies cannot.” 

Going forward, it’s important that regulators draw a line of applying these laws only to the largest companies that have key roles in the economy, he says. “Because otherwise, if the laws apply too broadly, what you end up with is a compliance burden that the Googles and Amazons can meet and their smaller competitors can’t.” 

He also pointed out that it would be interesting to watch for how the senators and representatives from California respond to this legislation, as it would impact some of the largest employers in their district. “At the House hearings, the California delegation was generally pretty opposed to the bills,” Stoltz says. “But what we hear from the people who actually work in Silicon Valley, people actually building these products, is, in many cases, they want to see change too.”

Ahead of the introduction of this new bill, here’s a look at the history of anti-competitive behaviors from these firms that led to this event, consisting of a scattering of big and small lawsuits. “This certainly didn’t start last week,” Stoltz says. 

Reining in big tech companies has not been an easy task, but it’s one that regulators have tried to tackle for years. 

The Federal Trade Commission is currently suing Facebook for being a monopoly. An amended complaint to the suit against Facebook was filed by the FTC in August, where it claimed that “to further moat its monopoly, Facebook lured app developers to the platform, surveilled them for signs of success, and then buried them when they became competitive threats.”

[Related: Facebook users can now mix Messenger and Instagram friends in group chats]

And last October, the Department of Justice sued Google for violating antitrust laws in its search advertisements. “For years, Google has accounted for almost 90 percent of all search queries in the United States and has used anti-competitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in search and search advertising,” the DOJ said in a statement. “Google has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements that collectively lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet.”

Then, in September, Bloomberg reported that US antitrust officials were preparing a second lawsuit against Google against its search advertising practices. 

“The government’s suits against Google and Facebook are both facing some pretty serious challenges,” Stoltz says. “But, there have been a lot of cases over the last century where big, complex antitrust cases against the monopolists of the day didn’t succeed in court, but they did succeed in changing those companies’ behavior.”

For example, he notes that the government’s suit against IBM in the late 1900s for monopolistic practices was ultimately abandoned, but it changed IBM’s behavior enough to allow companies like Microsoft to come in and launch the personal computer revolution without being squashed. 

Similarly, after the Microsoft lawsuit (which famously did not break up the company) wrapped up in 2001, it led to Microsoft changing its internal practices enough that it decided not to squash budding competitors like Google, for example, when they were small. As Time reported, when Microsoft settled the case with the Department of Justice in November 2001, it agreed to “make it easier for Microsoft’s competitors to get their software more closely integrated with the Windows operating system.”

Although Apple has not been brought to court by federal agencies, its practices were put under the spotlight when Epic games sued the company over its App store policies. US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ended up ruling that App Store’s overall structure is legal but said that Apple “is breaking the law by forcing people to pay for apps and in-app items through the App Store, where it usually takes a 30 percent slice of the payment as commission,” NPR reported. 

[Related: Why you need to update your Apple products’ software ASAP]

These individual cases are important, Stoltz remarks, because even if a suit fails, it can still lead to small, positive changes. “The court found that Epic had not shown that Apple violated the antitrust laws, but it did find a violation of some California state laws,” he says. “And on that basis, they ordered Apple to make it easier for [App developers] to pursue other sources of revenue to avoid the percentage Apple takes on the commerce that happens through its platforms.”

Amazon, for its part, has not been involved in any flashy, high-profile litigations. But there has  been scrutiny around Amazon’s practices in the e-book, audiobook, and textbook markets. Recently, investigations by Reuters and The Markup revealed that Amazon not only ripped off competitor merchandise and rigged search results to favor themselves, but it also ranked goods from their own brands above comparable, better rated products in the same category. 

[Related: Amazon killed retail stores just to open up its own]

“Certainly if a law like [Klobuchar’s bill] passes, that will absolutely trigger some more investigation into Amazon,” Stoltz said. He thinks the major suits against Google and Facebook have a chance of winning. However, “they would be even more effective if they had new laws at their disposal like the one Senator Klobuchar just introduced and the package of five bills that passed the House judiciary committee—which were all various approaches to various aspects of the problem.”

A series of House bills, which for the most part had bipartisan support, are meant to change how federal agencies can monitor and control anti-competitive practices. Within this set of bills, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act will specifically target self-preferencing, and Recode reported that it “could potentially impact how Apple runs its App Store, or how Amazon deals with its third-party sellers.” 

[Related: You can delete Facebook and still keep some of your memories. Here’s how.]

The announcement of the bills have elicited backlash from industry groups, who argue that their passing would harm the tech companies and hamper their ability to deliver popular consumer products and services. 

And Apple has pushed back, issuing a 16-page document justifying how the structure of the App store enables it to protect consumer safety and privacy. 

“I think there are some concerns,” Stoltz says. But “their complaints are far overstated.” First of all, it’s likely that these laws will only affect the largest companies, “depending on how it’s defined.” 

Plus, it seems to Stoltz, at least, that there appears to be a sort of “escape valve” for these big companies in the House version of this bill. “It doesn’t outright ban companies from directing users to their own offerings. It just requires them to justify it,” he explains. “It requires them to have a reason other than ‘we just want to squash competition.’” 

In many ways, he views this as fair game. Some companies “have been truly innovative and have created features for reasons other than just to maintain their dominance,” Stoltz says. “I think they can and should justify the innovations that are really innovations.” 

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related

OTHER NEWS

10 of the best job search sites to use during your job hunt

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Hunting for a new gig? Thankfully, your perfect workplace may be ... Read more »

The best headphones of 2021 are on sale for a record-low price of Amazon

If you’re looking to score a discount on some of the best headphones on the market, then you’re in luck. Amazon has the Sony WH-1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones on sale ... Read more »

Updated daily: Here are the 5 best Amazon deals today in December 2021

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Every day, we scour Amazon to find the best deals available. ... Read more »

Careful where you click: Tragedies like Michigan's Oxford school shooting attract scammers

Tragedy can unite communities, shine a light on heroes and remind us once again that life is indeed incredibly fragile. And tragedy opens the door for the scammers who know ... Read more »

Patchy monitoring means UK Omicron numbers unclear, say officials

Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA Only 30-35% of PCR tests for general population are processed at labs that look for a key indicator of new variant The Omicron variant of coronavirus is ... Read more »

Russia to send Japanese space tourist tycoon to ISS

Yusaku Maezawa has been training for his space mission for months (ASSOCIATED PRESS) A Japanese billionaire will blast into space aboard a Russian rocket on Wednesday, marking Moscow’s return to ... Read more »

Chinese lander spots cube-shaped 'mystery hut' on the dark side of the moon

The Chinese Yutu-2 lunar rover just spotted a cube-shaped “mystery hut” along the horizon as it explores the far side of the moon and is currently driving over to investigate. ... Read more »

Google is launching a more secure place for your photos

Keeping the photos and videos stored on your Android smartphone away from prying eyes is about to get a whole lot easier as the new Locked Folder feature in Google ... Read more »

Bus drivers' brainwaves will be monitored in South Korean safety pilot

This article was originally published by  on , the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates, follow Cities Today on , , , , ... Read more »

30 gifts for women under $100 to invest in for the 2021 holiday season

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. The holidays are quickly approaching, and many of us are looking ... Read more »

A Stargazer's Guide to the 2021 Geminid Meteor Shower: When It Will Peak and How to Watch

gremind meteor Getty Mark your calendars and set your alarms because the Geminid meteor shower is upon us, expecting to peak during the late evening of Dec. 13 into the ... Read more »

Best SD Cards 2021: the best memory cards for your video or stills camera

Searching for the best SD cards for your camera? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve speed-tested, reviewed and ranked all of the best choices around for stills and video ... Read more »

Dark matter is definitely missing in mysterious galaxy, study says

(Javier Román & Pavel Mancera Piña) A mysterious galaxy is definitely missing its dark matter, the authors of a new paper say. The scientists behind the research say that when ... Read more »

Human intuition and machine reasoning: AI's helping us solve giant math puzzles

Research in mathematics is a deeply imaginative and intuitive process. This might come as a surprise for those who are still recovering from high-school algebra. What does the world look ... Read more »

Tesla Under Investigation By SEC Over SolarCity Panels Defects

Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) is facing scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over fire risks caused by alleged SolarCity’s solar panel defects. A whistleblower complained that the firm had ... Read more »

How to install any screen protector on any camera | Sony, Canon, Nikon

Welcome back to The Ultimate Tech Hub. On today’s episode we will install a LCD Screen protector for our camera. We will install the Glass Protector from Expert Shield onto ... Read more »

Crypto exchange BitMart vows to compensate for $205 million hack

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Crypto exchange BitMart will use its own funding to compensate users affected in a security breach that saw hackers withdraw about US$150 million (S$205 million) of ... Read more »

Google Pixel phones are getting another round of feature updates

Back when Google launched the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro, we heard about a few features that were “coming soon” – and some of those features are now ... Read more »

Activision Blizzard's Call Of Duty game testers plan walkout over job cuts

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – A group of workers at an Activision Blizzard division supporting the Call Of Duty franchise plan to call out of work Monday (Dec 6) in protest ... Read more »

Forza Motorsport car list, news and rumors

Forza Motorsport is the upcoming eighth entry in Microsoft’s long-running racing game franchise and while we don’t know when it’ll release just yet we’re expecting it to be a true ... Read more »

Starfield: release date, trailers, exclusivity and everything you need to know

Starfield, the long-awaited new IP from Bethesda Game Studios, is coming to Xbox PC in 2022 and it looks set to take us on an epic sci-fi adventure. Starfield details ... Read more »

The Xbox Windows app will soon tell you how well games will play on your PC

Microsoft is testing a new feature in the Xbox App for Windows that will let you know how well a game should run on your PC. The feature is currently ... Read more »

Snag a Gravity Blanket for a massive discount during this huge holiday sale

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. If you’re searching for a calming gift that will offer your ... Read more »

WhatsApp is adding this new functionality to disappearing messages feature

WhatsApp is giving users more control for its disappearing messages feature. Facebook-owned WhatsApp says that users will now have the option to turn on disappearing messages automatically for all their ... Read more »

TikTok secret algorithm is a big 'Duh!'

TikTok’s powerful algorithm steering the social media activity of millions of daily users is no longer a mystery. In a new New York Times report that outlines information gleaned from ... Read more »

BioWare confirms commitment to making Dragon Age 4 ‘single-player focused'

Dragon Age 4 developer, BioWare, has confirmed that the game will be a “single-player focused experience.” The confirmation comes by way of a recent blog post celebrating Dragon Age Day, ... Read more »

Lack of Workforce Insight Is Killing Your Business

There’s no denying that the future of work is all about flexibility. As employees, we love being able to replace lengthy commutes with more focused time when working from home, ... Read more »

You can now be part of the new social network, Woonkly, which will be based on NFt and metaverses

The new social network Woonkly seeks to bring together the world of Blockchain and reality. Unlike the social networks that we already have, Woonkly is based on NFT and metaverses ... Read more »

How AI Solutions Can Improve the Travel and Hotel Booking Experience

Regardless of what Covid-19 has in store this winter, the travel industry is looking ahead to 2022 and remaining hopeful for a robust recovery. But even as travel bounces back, ... Read more »

Shop Ulta Beauty's Holiday Beauty Blitz and take 50% off makeup, hair and skincare gifts

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Holiday shopping just got a festive makeover thanks to the month-long ... Read more »

Dell Precision 7560 Workstation review

Two-minute review The Dell Precision 7560 is the latest in Dell’s line of portable workstation laptops, which have a reputation for being extremely powerful, but expensive. The multi-faceted line leans ... Read more »

Why we can't charge lithium-ion EV batteries in a few minutes

Extremely fast charging of our EVs would be a dream come true, right? Just imagine rolling up to a charger and juicing up your battery within mere five minutes, or ... Read more »

The start of a new era for Microsoft Teams is here

Microsoft has rolled out an update for Teams that will change the way many people collaborate with colleagues and perform their daily tasks on the platform. The update introduces functionality ... Read more »

The Game Awards has 'four or five' things as big as the Elden Ring reveal

This year’s The Game Awards will have a handful of big reveals on the scale of the Elden Ring reveal at Summer Game Fest, according to host and producer Geoff ... Read more »

How to make a League of Legends kids can play, according to Disney Melee Mania's developers

In the two years since Apple Arcade launched, it’s collected over two hundred family-friendly games that are lighthearted takes on gameplay genres that are usually pretty intense. Its next game, ... Read more »

How to upgrade your PS4, PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro hard drive

Are you tired of deleting games from your PS4 library? Then it may be time to upgrade your hard drive. Some games – we’re looking at you, Call of Duty ... Read more »

Omicron v Delta: How do variants compare on infectiousness and effect on Covid vaccines?

A woman receives her Covid-19 booster jab (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire) The emergence of the new coronavirus variant Omicron has already affected travel rules and seen a return to mandatory ... Read more »

New Matrix Resurrections trailer revives the past to deliver a new puzzling future

The Matrix Resurrections has received a new trailer ahead of its release later this month – and it looks absolutely stunning, even though it leaves us with more questions than ... Read more »

There's never been a worse time to own a Roku streaming stick

If you’ve recently bought yourself one of the best Roku streaming sticks – as many of you may have, during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales – then you ... Read more »

Donald Trump's new site wants to take on AWS as well as Facebook

The social media firm founded by former US President Donald Trump is looking to shake up large areas of the technology sector, it has claimed. As reported by the BBC, ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic