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First there was too much shouting. And now there’s action. (Maybe.)
The bad mood about the power of Big Tech companies has a new and perhaps surprising development: House lawmakers have written a package of proposed legislation that if all passed – an “if” huge – could fundamentally change Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple as we know them.
I asked my colleague Cecilia Kang to guide us through the bills, and how we got here.
Shira: What is the proposed law for?
Cecilia: There are six bills in different ways that limit the power of big tech companies. A bill to provide more funding for government agencies to examine corporations is not controversial.
That has helped solidify a mostly bipartisan consensus – though not always for common reasons – that Washington needs to be less aggressive with tech companies. And antitrust law is now seen as a way to address a range of perceived issues with technology, including some Republicans’ perception of bias towards opinions and voices. conservative.
Big Tech companies messy and make too many enemies in Washington, or is it inevitable that they will be the target of new laws and regulations?
Both. From my conversations with lobbyists at major tech companies, there are some regrets that companies have misjudged how good they are with politicians and regulators. physical. And the Washington tech companies’ policy offices may not have adequately told their West Coast bosses the extent to which lawmakers have railed against Big Tech.
But look, a handful of tech companies are the most valuable in the country and influence the economy, the way we work, the way people find information, and the way we live. That leaves companies scrutinizing.
How do companies react to these bills?
Their main message is that lawmakers risk creating far more problems than they can solve. For example, Apple says that people will be exposed to sketchy apps if Congress asks the company to let people download iPhone apps outside of its official store. Lobbyists have said that Amazon may be forced to stop Prime shipping on some products.
Is there a united front between Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple?
Unnecessary. There is some disagreement over policy. Facebook seems open to one of its proposals to make it easier for people to get their data from an app to a competitor. Google is against that and says they will expose people to scammers.
There is also visceral anger. Quite a few tech companies, not just the biggest ones, resent Facebook for what they believe the company has tarnished the entire industry. One lobbyist told me that it is difficult for Facebook to roll back antitrust laws after so many scandals. Apple, which competes with Facebook in every way, is effectively lobbying lawmakers on behalf of it and Facebook.
Sorry for the skepticism, but what if Big Tech just waits division and the fight among legislators to kill the law?
Are you sure you’ve never worked in lobbying?! It is a classic strategy and not an illogical bet that Congress will not act together. But these antitrust bills, especially those that make acquisitions more difficult or force companies to spin off their businesses, are existential threats to Big Tech. Companies have to fight them.
Before we go…
A middle-class retirement account, worth $5 billion: ProPublica examines how super-wealthy Americans including Peter Thiel, a prominent investor in young tech companies, amassed billions of dollars, tax-free in what is supposed to be a retirement account for for those with much more modest savings.
What can the e-commerce giants do for Indian store owners? 20 million small stores in India called kirana dominate shopping in the country. Bloomberg News reports that Amazon and Walmart-owned e-commerce site Flipkart are partnering with stores – including providing them with inventory management apps and using the stores for delivery – to sell more goods in Indian communities.
Dr. Reddit? Wired writes that a Reddit forum called DiagnoseMe, where people ask strangers for medical advice, isn’t as bad as it sounds. DiagnoseMe is pretty good at self-control and encourages people to advocate for themselves in the sometimes hostile healthcare system.