An antitrust law targeting big tech companies is making its way through Congress. Some say the law’s impact could spread throughout the internet, even to your business.
There is growing bipartisan support in the Senate for a bill that could change the way big tech companies are allowed to operate. Proponents of the potential law, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, want to prevent big companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon from abusing the power of their platforms to disadvantage competitors. But some fear that the new law could hurt everyone who uses the internet, including small businesses and even the end consumer.
The bill’s main argument boils down to this: it is unfair for a company to both control a marketplace, and to sell products on that marketplace in competition with other sellers. It aims to ensure these large platforms like Google’s search engine or the Amazon marketplace are fair, competitive markets where every business is on an even playing field, and a company can’t abuse its platform to disadvantage other businesses. A common example supporters of the bill point to is Amazon using its marketplace data to find what items are popular, developing cheap alternative products, and giving those products preference in Amazon search results. There’s also a long history of allegations against Google that it prioritizes other Google products and services at the top of search results, unfairly stifling competition by abusing their control of the platform.
The bill is certainly not without its opponents who see it as an overly broad attempt to hobble giant tech companies. They worry that it could backfire, stifling innovation and growth throughout the tech sector. It’s been argued that an antitrust law in this case is using a hammer to fix problems better solved with a scalpel. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill largely on the belief that the purpose of antitrust laws is to protect consumers, not competitors, and it argues that consumers enjoy and use the products and services provided by these platforms.
The truth, as always, is likely somewhere in the middle. At this point you may be wondering how this could affect you since you’re likely not one of these massive tech companies. Well, if you’re reading this article, your company probably works with CBM, which means you have a web presence, which means you are most likely relying on these companies and their platforms every day to do business. If the way they conduct business on their platform changes, those changes could ripple down to you.
Both Google and Amazon have made warnings about the potential impacts of the proposed law. Google says the law, if passed, would prevent them from giving potential customers more of your information, making it harder for your business to stand out when people search for you online. It also raises the specter of lost productivity if your business relies on Google’s integrated services like Docs, Calendar, and Gmail. Meanwhile, Amazon says that small businesses are thriving on their platform, especially during the pandemic, and that new regulations on the Amazon marketplace would make it harder for new businesses to succeed on the platform.
It’s important to note that this bill is not a partisan Right versus Left issue; it has bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate, as did a similar bill in the House earlier this year. If you have any questions or concerns you can reach out to your elected officials. Find out how to contact them at https://www.congress.gov/members; their offices should be happy to hear from the business men and women they represent.