Big Tech Loses a Legislative Fight: Against All Odds

United States Capital Building in Washington DC.
It seems that bills meant to rein in Big Tech will pass the House of Representatives.
Source: Obi – @pixel6propix via Unsplash.com

In an unlikely bi-partisan push, two antitrust bills against Big Tech passed through the House of Representatives. The bills seek to restrict Big Tech’s misuse of power. 

The Open App Markets Act (OAMA) and the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO) now stand a greater chance of becoming laws. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) put the bills forward to the House.

Moreover, this small legislative win over Big Tech came after representatives from both sides broke ranks with their party leadership on the issue. 

After limited support and initial dismissals, critics now seem hopeful that the bills will pass into law before December. 

Here’s what we know so far:

  • Two bills now enjoy bi-partisan support.
  • Media messaging has failed to detract the vote against Big Tech.
  • Tech Oversight Project, the non-profit behind the legislation against Big Tech, is now hopeful the bills will pass.

However, before the bills become laws, the legislative process might alter its original messaging. 

Bi-Partisan Support for the Bills

Last week, US Congress passed a package of antitrust bills. The bills package aims to break up Big Tech’s monopoly over the platforms it runs. Moreover, antitrust bills will increase governmental control over the tech giants.

The bill package passed with a 242 to 184 majority in the House. But the package is less ambitious than OAMA and AICO. Still, its passing renews hope for the OAMA and AICO. However, it remains unclear how the bills will restrict dominant tech companies from self-promoting on their platforms.

Despite opposition from GOP leadership, the party representatives now support the bill. Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) has been instrumental in gathering support within his party.

Currently, representatives on both sides are going against their party leaders. Additionally, despite the condemnations of the bills, Republican representatives have switched to the Democrat’s side. Supporters want to end self-promotion practices.

Tech Oversight Project believes both consumers and the tech industry will benefit from the bills. 

Symbols of Democrat and Republican parties cut out of paper.
Despite opposition by both party leaderships, the bills seem to have bi-partisan support.
Source: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash.com

Attacks with Misdirection

Leadership on both sides of the aisle is against restricting Big Tech, though for different reasons. Democratic leaders worry about fake news spreading if Big Tech is defanged. The Republicans, however, say Big Tech’s power to censor conservative voices will grow if the bills pass.

Jim Jordan, Ohio’s Republican representative, said the bills make it easier to censor conservatives.

In a memo released to the press, Sacha Haworth, Tech Oversight’s Director, accused representatives of both sides of putting out a red herring to achieve misdirection. Haworth views that the bills will not restrict free speech or prevent efforts against misinformation.

More Competition Is the Solution

Big Tech is already bracing for a recession. The additional regulations will only slow down their recovery. But, for the average consumer, this is all irrelevant.

For democratic voters, the most important issue regarding tech use is fake news. These voters see fake news as the biggest threat to US democracy.

On the other hand, the issue with Big Tech is its misuse of censoring powers. They accuse Big Tech of censoring conservative voices. This unchecked power in Big Tech’s hands can influence voting and politics. 

In both cases, Big Tech’s opponents view more competition as the solution. Once regulated, Big Tech will have to improve its services and allow other outlets to compete.

Despite this, the platforms will still be able to remove apps and content that violate its policies. However, it’s noteworthy that Facebook and Twitter are out of OAMA and AICO’s scope.

Statue of Justicia with scales and sword representing justice.
While still far from law, the scales seems to be tipping in favor of proposed antitrust bills.
Source: AJEL via Pixabay.com

Nothing Is Yet Certain

Although the prospect for the antitrust bills has improved, nothing is certain before the vote in or before December. That said, the bills will restrict Big Tech companies from self-promoting their products. This includes Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Apple, and Amazon. 

Despite the recent drop in their share prices, companies like Apple have substantial lobbying power.

Additionally, the House of Representatives is moving into a lame-duck session, making it harder to pass new bills. But the bills might pass until they don’t affect representatives’ standings among voters. 

For proponents, the odds of the bills passing seem to be improving. The opposition will up their game, especially now when the risk of the bills passing is real. 

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