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New Tech Regulation Bill Being Considered by Congress American Innovation and Choice Online Act

Technology Policy Brief #59 | By: Christopher Quinn | June 24, 2022

Header photo taken from: TechCrunch

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U.S. bill to rein in Big Tech backed by dozens of small and big companies.

Photo taken from: Yahoo 

Policy Summary

A major piece of legislation that could re-shape the tech industry is just a few steps away from becoming law.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, S.2992 (117) led by Senators  Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) and Chuck Grassley (R- Iowa) would prohibit dominant tech platforms from what its sponsors believe amounts to unfairly ranking their services above those of its rivals.  The new law would help small businesses and entrepreneurs by barring Amazon,  for instance, from giving preference to its own products.  In other words, the Seattle-based company, couldn’t put its own goods on page one of the platforms search engine and its competitor’s on page sixteen.

The bill marks the most serious attempt at tightening oversight of the tech industry in years and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with support from both parties earlier this year. 

Many advocates believe the bill must pass ahead of the mid-term elections, or at least before House control potentially changes, in order to achieve the reforms. 

Policy Analysis

Tech lobbyists and several members of Congress have voiced concerns that the bill could have negative ramifications on user privacy and security.  It could prevent  covered platforms from installing or maintaining default security measures on their services, such as Google Chrome’s spam filters and malware protection. 

Google, Amazon, Apple and Meta have shelled out tens of millions of dollars over the past year alone,  supporting lobbying spending and advertising campaigns, arguing that the bills would hurt national security and aggravate consumers that rely on products like Google Search and Amazon Prime.

There’s a growing concern on Capitol Hill that the privacy of Americans’ data could be at risk and the new law could make it harder to tamp down Russian dis-information. It could also prevent companies from imposing privacy or security rules for third-party businesses that use their platforms. Moreover,  the third-party data access and portability provisions, could in the absence of further privacy protections, lead covered platforms to transfer sensitive customer information to bad actors.


In the high-stakes battle between states and technology companies, the rights of internet users have become the main casualties.

Photo taken from: Freedom House

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The bill would need to pass both the Senate and the House and there’s concern by advocates of the bill that there are a handful of Senators that have expressed support for the bill in the past that are either non-committal or not engaged or just giving a poker face – so the bill  may never make it to the Senate floor for  a vote.

 

 

 

One member of Congress, who requested anonymity  to speak freely, added that it will be a challenge to get through a tango between Nancy Pelosi in the House and Chuck  Schumer in the Senate, neither of whom want to be the first to bring the bill to a vote in their full chamber. 

There’s  concern among some Congressional staffers  and anti-monopoly activists that two of Schumer’s daughters work at Facebook and Amazon respectively and this is a reason Schumer is not focused on fast-tracking a vote on the bills.

For a lot of members of Congress they want to be able to talk about what they’ve actually done to reign in tech and what they’ve done to help small businesses in their districts and this bill is a good plank for them to stand on. 

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