KLOBUCHAR: “We are finally seeing momentum on tech competition legislation, and privacy legislation, and legislation to protect kids, simply because this era of ‘Just Trust Us’ from the Big Tech companies has come to an end.”
WASHINGTON – At a University of Chicago Institute of Politics and The Atlantic panel titled “Taming the Wild, Wild Web,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, highlighted growing momentum for the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, her bipartisan legislation with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to restore competition online. Klobuchar was joined by former Governor Deval Patrick for a panel discussion moderated by Kara Swisher.
“We are seeing a change…and we are finally seeing momentum on tech competition legislation, and privacy legislation, and legislation to protect kids,” Klobuchar said, “simply because this era of ‘Just Trust Us’ from the Big Tech companies has come to an end.”
Emphasizing the need to restore competition online and combat anti-competitive behavior from tech conglomerates, Klobuchar continued: “When you see more and more consolidation that makes it harder to get that kind of competition that we've always embraced in this country as how we move forward….you shouldn't be allowing companies that are dominant gatekeepers to put their products, self preference their products that they also own."
Recently, the Department of Justice voiced its strong endorsement of the legislation, encouraging Congress “to work to finalize this legislation and pass it into law.” Additionally, the Washington Post Editorial Board recently expressed its support for the legislation.
This builds on growing momentum for the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. In February, the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a bipartisan vote of 16-6, making it the first major bill on technology competition to advance to the Senate floor since the dawn of the Internet.
In October, Klobuchar and Grassley introduced the American Innovation and Choice Online Act to set commonsense rules of the road for major digital platforms to ensure they cannot unfairly preference their own products and services.
The Senate legislation is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and endorsed by companies including Roku, DuckDuckGo, Yelp, Spotify, and Match Group. Over 35 small and medium-sized tech companies signed a letter supporting this legislation and urging Congress to take action to advance it.
Klobuchar’s full remarks as given are below. A video of the panel can be viewed online HERE.
It’s good to be back at the University of Chicago, where I went to law school, yay, and had a lot of fun, even though some people didn’t think it was a fun place to go. I had a great time. And seeing so many friends, Frances Haugen a hero, over there, and very pleased to be back.
You should also know that I could be with our newest Supreme Court justice celebrating at the White House. We're so excited for her. But as I told the White House, I've already moved on to my next challenge, which is this.
And the reason is that we are seeing a change, and that we are finally seeing momentum on tech competition legislation, and privacy legislation, and legislation to protect kids, simply because this era of “Just Trust Us” from the Big Tech companies has come to an end. And there's a lot of reasons that has happened. Some are Frances shedding the light on these privacy violations and what's happening to kids, and the content that they are exposed to. Some of it is action that we're seeing in other countries, where Australia stood up and said we want journalists to be able to be paid for their content, or the European Union is standing up to say that we no longer want to see these gatekeepers discriminating against their competitors, or what we're seeing in our own country right now.
And so what our legislation does, and believe me, I had a much broader concept because I think in general there's too much consolidation in our country. Our country was founded on this simple idea that we like entrepreneurship and capitalism, that we like freedom of expression. And when you see more and more consolidation that makes it harder to get that kind of competition that we've always embraced in this country as how we move forward. But what we've done here is taken one piece of this, which I think is a good start, and really one of the big basic problems, and that is when you have gatekeepers, like say, a Google with 90 percent of market share I kid you not, okay, that's where we are right now. And the Justice Department can deal with whether or not that's fair or not.
But if you have that situation, you shouldn't also be allowing companies that are dominant gatekeepers to put their products, self preference their products that they also own. We're not saying get rid of Google Maps. We're not saying get rid of any of your Amazon Basics. We're just saying you cannot put these over other competitive products when you advertise or have a place on the platform.
Secondly, you can't rip off people's data that you have access to. That is just a ridiculous situation uncovered by reporting by many outlets, including the Wall Street Journal. And my favorite one was a four employee company in Brooklyn, a luggage organizer company, where they had actually put their plans out there. And Amazon got it and they copied it and put it on Amazon Basic, not really a fair and equal playing field there. So you can't do that.
And the third part of this is that you can't require companies to buy a whole bunch of stuff and having to buy all of these services just to get placed near the top of the platform. That's a simple way to describe it, but it's about self preferencing.
Grassley and I have the bill. He's the master tweeter, of course. Never tweets without a typo. But that's how you know and the use of the word ‘you’ which he also sends texts to me all the time. God bless ‘U.’
So anyway, he and I are leading the bill and we have what Samantha Bee called the “Ocean’s Eleven” of cosponsors. We have everyone from Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin. Yay, Illinois – doing an incredible job, by the way – to Cory Booker and Mazie Hirono to Josh Hawley, Cynthia Lummis, Steve Daines, Senator Blumenthal, the list goes on.
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