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

There is growing concern among politicians both left and right to master the “Great Technologies”. Although specific complaints vary, there is general agreement among lawmakers that the biggest technology companies, such as Apple, Alphabet (owned by Google), Meta (owned by Facebook) and Amazon, are simply exercising too much power.

one account, The U.S. Innovation and Choice Act (AICOA) aims to make “certain discriminatory behavior” illegal when practiced on technology platforms. The bill is around from last year, sponsored by sen. Amy Klobuchar (D – Minn.) And a bipartisan group of senators, but according to ReutersMPs expect it to pass soon.

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

As drafted, AICOA aims to prevent self-preferencewhereby technology companies promote their own products or services to their customers on the grounds that this could “significantly harm competition”. For example, this would prevent Google from displaying Google Maps in search results, forcing users to take further steps if they want directions to a specific place they’ve just searched. Apple may be banned from pre-installing FaceTime or iMessage on its iPhones or told to open its App Store to competitors.

In particular, Amazon strongly opposes the bill. Earlier this month, Brian Hugman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, wrote that the company feels defined as “the only retailer … covered by this proposed legislation”. In fact, that’s the bill written so narrow that it covers only a handful of companies. Hugman writes that the bill would worsen the value and quality of [Amazon] Prime “by banning the company from offering one-day and two-day free shipping without allowing” other logistics providers “to fulfill these orders. restrictions on the use of customer data that would not apply to “other retailers … such as Walmart, Target and others.” According to Hugman, “we believe … the real, unspecified goal of the law” is to “hurt” Amazon.

In response, Bill Bayer of the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan institute wrote that the bill is “more nuanced (and therefore more complex) than that.” Baer writes that instead of banning certain behaviors, AICOA is doing so that government officials “must first convince the federal district court that they are likely to have a significant anti-competitive effect.” In addition, Amazon or any other targeted service will have the “ability to install affirmative protection”, such as that its conduct is necessary to prevent violations of the law, to protect the safety and privacy of users, or to maintain or improve core viability. on the platform, “or that she”[had] no and will not cause material damage to competition. “

But that’s hardly comforting: while Amazon now simply has to persuade consumers to buy its products, according to AICOA, it will have to further convince a judge, at its own expense, that its methods and practices are not anti-competitive enough. In addition, the penalty for any violation will be “an amount not exceeding 15 percent” of the total revenue “for the period of the infringement”. Bayer acknowledged that “the maximum civil penalty is severe”, but rejected it, saying that “in our federal judiciary … maximum penalties are rarely imposed.”

This week, four Democratic senators sent Klobuchar away letter, describing in detail the problems with AICOA. They are worried that the bill will make it illegal “Discriminate in the application or applying the terms of serviceā€¦ in a way that would significantly harm competition. “This, in turn, would ‘threaten current content moderation practices’ by demotivating the content moderation platform.” In fact, Apple’s App Store – which will be targeted by the bill –currently required application creators to filter out ‘spam’.

Entry in WIRED, Gilad Edelman found this argument “weak”. But it should be noted that for some legislators this is their explicit intention: During the session to mark the bill sen. Ted Cruz (R – Texas) pointed out that technology platforms should be held accountable for their decisions to moderate content, declaring, “I am more than happy to release the lawyers.”

On Tuesday Klobuchar tweets that “The business supports our bill because it is a PRO-business, “link to a news citing “dozens” of companies and business organizations. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce, as well as the chambers of 46 states, announcements their opposition to the bill on Wednesday. The chamber accused the bill of “shifting the antitrust’s focus from fostering competition to protect competitors from competition” and “punishing some companies for vigorous competition while leaving other companies free to engage in exactly the same behavior.”

“In the future, the federal government will decide whether a company can innovate, lower prices or offer free shipping and other services – or whether such vigorous competition is unfair.

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