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Bipartisan Senate Panel Approves Restrictions on Big Tech Companies

An antitrust bill restricting big tech platforms heads to the Senate floor. Is this a good idea?
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Image from Unsplash, White Caption by Mish

Image from Unsplash, White Caption by Mish

A bipartisan group of Senators advanced the American Innovation and Choice Online Act despite reservations. 

The bill would prohibit tech platforms from “favoring their own products or services, disadvantaging rivals, or discriminating among businesses that use their platforms in a manner that would materially harm competition on the platform.” It would also forbid dominant platforms from preventing interoperability with other services and from leveraging another company’s data on the platform to compete against them.

To accomplish its goals, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act would empower antitrust enforcers with “strong, flexible tools,” including “civil penalties, authority to seek broad injunctions, emergency interim relief, and potential forfeiture of executive compensation.”

Big Tech Weighs In

In a blog post, Google weighs in with The Harmful Consequences of Congress’s Anti-Tech Bills.

These changes concede every concern that has been raised about the bill — and solve none of them. For example, the amendment acknowledges the real security flaws in the bill by saying that platforms won’t be forced to share user data with companies on the U.S. sanctions list. But it says nothing about provisions that could require sharing data with countless other bad actors and foreign companies. The bill still covers leading American companies, while giving a free pass to foreign companies. It still includes all the provisions that hamper our ability to offer security by default on our platforms, exposing people to phishing attacks, malware and spammy content. And it still includes the provisions that could prevent us from providing consumers and businesses useful, free services. In fact, the amendment seems to punish free services in favor of services consumers have to pay for, as it seems to exempt "fee for subscription services" (like Microsoft’s subscription-based software). This raises its own set of troubling issues, would hurt consumers who benefit from free services, and doesn’t address the bill’s real problems.

Every day, millions of Americans use online services like Google Search, Maps and Gmail to find new information and get things done. Research shows these free services provide thousands of dollars a year in value to the average American, and polls show that 90% of Americans like our products and services.

However, legislation being debated in the House and Senate could break these and other popular online services, making them less helpful and less secure, and damaging American competitiveness. We’re deeply concerned about these unintended consequences.

Antitrust Could Hurt U.S. in China Tech Race

Axios comments Ex-Intel Officials Claim Antitrust Could Hurt U.S. in China Tech Race.

Twelve former top U.S. national security officials are urging Congress to hit pause on a package of antitrust bills in order to consider how breaking up tech companies could harm the U.S. in its competition with China, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

The big picture: Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats are among those arguing that imposing severe restrictions solely on U.S. giants will pave the way for a tech landscape dominated by China — echoing a position voiced by the Big Tech companies themselves.

What they're saying: In its quest to "undermine U.S. influence" and become "the world's leading innovator," the Chinese government employs policies designed to "create and support 'national champion' technology companies," the former officials wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Senate Reservations

The Wall Street Journal reports Senate Panel Approves Antitrust Bill Restricting Big Tech Platforms

The legislation “is specifically designed to target a small number of specific companies, most of which are headquartered in my home state,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who criticized elements of the bill along with fellow California Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla. “It’s difficult to see the justification for a bill that regulates the behavior of only a handful of companies while allowing everyone else to continue engaging in that exact same behavior.”

Despite their reservations, both California senators voted “yes” to advance the bill.

But Ms. Feinstein’s concerns foreshadowed hurdles ahead. Another California Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, hasn’t brought similar antitrust legislation up for a vote amid divisions within her caucus, and lawmakers have limited time to resolve differences before midterms campaigns accelerate later this year.

The top Republican on the judiciary panel’s antitrust subcommittee, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, said he shared concerns about monopoly power in the tech industry but worried the bill was written too broadly and could cause “collateral damage.”

“It may actually entrench the very four companies at which it is aimed by creating a strong incentive to simply cease doing any business with third parties,” Mr. Lee said. “This could crush thousands of small businesses, and it could actually worsen the state of competition in online markets.”

Amazon has said it might not be able to let other businesses sell on its marketplace. Google says it might not be able to feature Google Maps in search results. Apple says the bill could undermine its ability to force third-party apps to get permission before collecting data on iPhone users—a concern Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said he heard personally from Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook. 

What About Competition?

Despite widespread fantasy, there is actually a huge amount of competition. 

The big tech companies are all competing against each other. For example, Amazon is into cloud services sparring with Google and Microsoft. 

Apple and Google spar all the time. Android phones directly compete against Apple. On and off, Apple is into self-driving car technology. 

This competition adds tremendous innovation.

What Will Biden Do?

Undoubtedly, Biden will do whatever Elizabeth Warren says.

And if don't know what that is, here's a hint: Break Up Big Tech by Elizabeth Warren.

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power—too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.” – Elizabeth Warren

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That tells you where this is headed and what the real goal is. 

Elizabeth Warren May as Well Be President, She Makes All Biden's Calls

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Joe Biden's nominee for the Comptroller of the Currency Saule Omarova on oil, coal and gas industries: "We want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change."

 Omarova's position on energy ties in perfectly with Warren's position

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Warren is Marxist to the core as is Omarova. 

Biden is not bright enough to find these picks on his own accord. Warren is feeding Biden the picks. 

Is It Good for the Consumer?

Consumers have spoken. People like Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. That's why they use them.

Google has the dominant search engine because people like it. People like Google Maps.

In addition, we have the intelligence concerns and the well-stated concerns of “collateral damage” by Senator Lee of Utah.

I side with consumers, free markets, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, the intelligence committees, and Senator Lee. 

I stand  against the Progressives led by Elizabeth Warren.

There is a reason these companies all exist in the US: The US has the best and brightest minds and among the most open markets for those minds to flourish.

These companies do not exist in the EU because the EU nannycrats would bust them up in the name of competition before they ever achieved success. 

This article originally appeared on MishTalk

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