US senators are reiterating big tech antitrust objections

If you’ve ever wondered about the impact of the big tech sectors in the capital, you can literally hear it from the mouths of lawmakers on Thursday, as its members Senate Judiciary Committee Met to mark an antitrust bill that would prohibit Marketplace and App Store owners from self-preferring their own products.

The bill is Congress’s most serious attempt at ruling the power of big tech companies—mainly Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and potentially—Microsoft and TikTok. if passed, American Innovation and Choice Online Act Will block Amazon from listing its own products at the top of search results before third-party sellers. Apple and Google may be prevented from giving preferential placement of their apps in their App Stores.

During Thursday’s session, several senators reiterated the belief that competition within the tech industry is lacking and new antitrust laws are needed. But the bill’s sponsors, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), also heard many familiar refrains from committee members on both sides of the aisle, seeking to amend, oppose or delay the bill.

“This bill would actually prevent companies like Apple from taking steps to make sure an application is secure before you download it to your phone,” said California Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein. “Because we require companies to remove the protections that exist today and instead allow hackers and personal data thefts to access devices.”

“The bill sets the bar very high for tech companies to ensure the privacy of their customers without penalty,” said Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Those comments echo the concerns of Apple, which believes the Klobuchar/Grassley bill, and another bill called open app market act, for this the users “sideload“Untested apps on your iPhones from sources other than Apple.

“The bill poses a real risk of privacy and security breaches harming consumers,” Apple’s senior director of public affairs Timothy Powderly wrote in a letter to Senate judiciary leadership. fast company, “In addition, the . . . the bill would actually allow predators and scammers to completely take away Apple’s privacy and security protections.”

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz said during the hearing that he was on the phone with Apple CEO Tim Cook the night before, and that Cook “expressed significant concerns about the bill.”

Several senators talked about the impact of the Klobuchar bill on the global competitiveness of US tech companies.

“I have concerns about the impact of this bill on the ability of American businesses to compete in the global economy,” said Texas Republican John Cornyn. Democratic Senator Chris Koons of Delaware hit out at the same point.

Several senators who voted for the bill also raised concerns on Thursday.

NetChoice, an industry group that lobbies on behalf of Amazon, Meta/Facebook, TikTok, and others, has been saying this for months. “Today’s antitrust regime fuels America’s global competitiveness and consumer welfare,” the group states on its website. “Today’s antitrust rule isn’t perfect, but it reflects America’s more than a century of accumulated wisdom to promote global competitiveness and consumer welfare.”

Klobuchar has previously complained that industry lobbyists are muddying the waters on the actual language and intent of the bill. it is not surprising. If passed, it could force big tech companies to make major changes to their marketplaces.

“How much money and time is being put into this . . . I’ve really never seen anything like this in all the issues I’ve worked on,” says Alex Petros, policy advisor at the technical public interest group Public Knowledge.

Petros says his group was one of the first to try to meet with the senators’ staff. “They were submerged in water – hour by hour, meeting after meeting with either the tech companies themselves or the groups affiliated with them. It’s been an all out blitz.”

Big tech companies in Washington have their own public policy staff. In many cases the companies also use outside DC law firms, each of whom have longstanding ties to Hill, to lobby on their behalf.

The final game of the tech industry lobby may be to raise enough doubts and procedural issues to slow the bill. As the mid-November period approaches, passing important legislation will become more difficult.

Petros told me that it is common to hear in bill markup that lawmakers agree to support the bill if they can get one or two amendments to the text. Today the committee received 107 requests for amendments, including 82 from Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a senator.

Many amendment requests were eventually dropped, and committee members voted 16-6 to move the bill out of committee and onto the Senate floor. Republicans and Democrats both voted in favor.

A House version of the bill (sponsored by Democrat David Sicilin of Rhode Island) dropped it from the Judiciary Committee but Stalled on the floor of the house. There is no guarantee that the Klobuchar/Grassley bill will not see the same fate in the Senate.

Several senators who voted for the bill also raised concerns about it on Thursday, but did not file amendments to address concerns. Those people may still decide to vote “no” if the measure comes up for a full vote in the Senate, explaining that the concerns were never addressed.

according to a report good By Reuters Diane Bartz, the Cowen Washington Research Group believes the bill’s proponents expressed reservations that the law now has less than a 50% chance of becoming law.

However, the bill also has a few things in it, Petros points out. Unlike the voting rights and infrastructure bills, which were sharply divided along party lines, the Tech Antitrust bill has demonstrated bipartisan support.

The bill is likely to be promoted by Klobuchar and Grassley to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the grounds that it represents a golden opportunity for the Biden administration to do something before midterm.