By Marguerite Reardon
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Tuesday said the bipartisan legislation she and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley introduced earlier this week that would bar internet companies from favoring their own products should send a strong signal to companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook that regulation is coming to rein in their power.
Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, and Iowa's Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced The American Innovation and Choice Online Act on Monday. The bill, which is supported by more than a half dozen Democrats and Republicans, could have huge implications for how these tech giants run their businesses.
She said the wide bipartisan support for the legislation is an indication that regulation is coming for Big Tech. She noted that the tech industry was likely a "little shocked" when she was able to get not only Grassley, but also other Republicans, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Josh Hawley of Arkansas and John Kennedy of Louisiana to co-sponsor the bill.
If it's passed, the bill would prohibit dominant platforms from favoring their own products or services, a practice known as self-preferencing. It would also bar these companies from discriminating against smaller competitors that use their platforms in a way that harms competition.
"What I want to do with the law is go after this exclusionary conduct, which I think is outrageous," she said at the WSJ Tech Live conference. "These are common sense reforms."
The House Judiciary Committee passed a similar bill earlier this year.
The bill is the latest in a string of legislation that Republicans and Democrats have introduced as they struggle to address the outsized influence tech giants have over American life. It also comes on the heels of Senate testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked thousands of internal documents about the company that she says show Facebook disregarded its own internal research that found its Instagram app is harmful to teen girls. Facebook disagrees with this assessment and says the research shows that many teenagers benefit from its app.
In her testimony, Haugen urged lawmakers to take steps to address the company's increasingly destructive role in society. Klobuchar said these disclosures, and the concerns that parents have about their children on social media, are propelling legislative efforts to protect children online.
While many on Capitol Hill, including Klobuchar, say the time has come to regulate Big Tech companies, there's been less agreement on how to do it. As a result, several pieces of legislation have stalled. Now consensus is forming on a number of issues, Klobuchar said.
Lawmakers from both parties are considering a total repeal of the liability shield known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, rather than a narrowly focused update to the law, she said.