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Platform Product Preference Bill Unfairly Targets Large Online Platforms, CCIA Says

The Computer and Communications Industry Association counts as members Amazon, Google and Facebook.

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WASHINGTON, March 24, 2022 – Proposed legislation that would prohibit large online platforms from engaging in practices like giving their own products preferential treatment over competitors is too narrowly defined to include a small group of big technology companies while excluding others, argued an association representing those large tech companies on Wednesday.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which also aims to ban discrimination against third-party products on the host platform, defines covered companies under the legislation by their value – which some say will exclude other large retailers that may engage in the same practices the legislation hopes to abolish.

“The bill very carefully picks winners and losers,” Arthur Sidney, vice president of public policy at Computer and Communications Industry Association, said on a Broadband Breakfast panel Wednesday about the legislation that was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee for Senate votes. The CCIA, which advocates for small and medium companies, also has among its members Amazon, Google and Facebook, three of the world’s largest companies.

“I do think that the bill penalizes big for being bad, but big…is not bad. It’s just a matter of success,” he said.

The legislation “prohibits certain large online platforms from engaging in specified acts, including giving preference to their own products on the platform, unfairly limiting the availability on the platform of competing products from another business, or discriminating in the application or enforcement of the platform’s terms of service among similarly situated users,” according to the bill.

CCIA’s President Matt Schruers said about the bill in January that targeting “leading businesses will skew competition and leave consumers worse off. By hamstringing successful U.S. tech companies without even imposing corresponding obligations on foreign rivals, this shortsighted legislation will put the data and security of U.S. users at risk.”

Amazon had been accused of violating antitrust laws when it allegedly used third-party sellers’ data to help increase the sales of its own products. On Friday, a Superior Court of D.C. judge dismissed the case against the company. Meanwhile, on this same matter, bipartisan House Judiciary members wrote to the Department of Justice this month alleging Amazon obstructed the committee’s “extensive investigation into competition in digital markets,” which took place last Congress.

Bill provides flexibility to capture other companies

But a government affairs policy counsel at advocacy group Public Knowledge, who sat opposite of Sidney at Wednesday’s event, said the legislation provides flexibility to capture other large companies that may engage in such practices.

“The [bill is] trying to encircle and analyze and scrutinize a market position” instead of targeting certain companies by name,” said Antoine Prince Albert III. “The [bill is] flexible with thresholds to show that a market position would be indicative by a market cap,” he said. Market capitalization is determined by multiplying the price of each share by how many shares it has outstanding.

It is “not targeting individual companies,” Albert said.

In the middle of these two viewpoints was Patrick Hedger, executive director of Taxpayers Protection Alliance. He said that “the market is a little more dynamic than the proponents of this legislation think,” evident by “Meta’s recent collapse in market cap,” whose stock price fell 25 percent after the company’s social media platform Facebook saw a decline in user growth.

If Meta “is at this market cap for the next two years, which is what some of the bill is prescribed for, they will no longer be a covered platform,” he said.

Photo of panelists during the online event

Photo of Drew Clark, Patrick Hedger, Antoine Prince Albert III, and Arthur Sidney at Wednesday’s event

Hedger also raised a bill proposed by Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Senator Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, that contains a data enactment provision in this proposed legislation that means “only companies that are above the market cap at the date of enactment of the legislation will be covered in perpetuity, and not all the other ones that eventually grow to that level.”

This bill, titled the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, aims to “prevent big tech from further suppressing competition through killer acquisitions” and establish “a presumption against mergers and acquisitions of potential competitors by the Big Tech companies,” according to a one-pager about the bill.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event and REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Big Tech and the American Innovation and Choice Online Act

Congress is ratcheting up its campaign against big tech. A specific focus of lawmakers is promoting competitiveness in markets a few big platforms dominate. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act prevents platforms giving preference to their own products and limiting the availability of competitors’ products. Will the bill accomplish its goals? What challenges does it face? Join us for the Broadband Breakfast Live Online event where panelists will hash out these and other issues.

Panelists for this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session:

  • Antoine Prince Albert III, Government Affairs Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge
  • Arthur Sidney, Vice President of Public Policy, Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA)
  • Patrick Hedger, Executive Director, Taxpayers Protection Alliance
  • Drew Clark (presenter and host), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Antoine Prince Albert III is a Government Affairs Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge, Inc., a DC-based public interest group working to defend consumer rights in the emerging digital culture. At PK, Prince delivers high-impact advocacy strategies on issues like online platform governance and competition, Section 230, artificial intelligence and algorithms, music licensing, and privacy. He is routinely consulted for critical insights on how media and technology function within Black, Latino, Indigenous, and LGBTQIA2S+ communities of the United States, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Arthur D. Sidney, LLM is the VP of Public Policy at CCIA, where he started in June 2020. Formerly, he was chief of staff and chief counsel to Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, and served as an international trade attorney with the U.S. Department of Commerce where he focused upon trade remedies. Arthur has served as an adjunct professor at Howard University School of Law, American University, Washington College of Law, and University of Maryland University College now University of Maryland Global campuses.

Patrick Hedger is the Executive Director of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a nonprofit, nonpartisan taxpayer and consumer watchdog group. Prior to joining TPA, Patrick was a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Technology and Innovation. Patrick is a twice-graduate of George Mason University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and International Politics and a Master of Public Policy degree.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

Illustration from January 2022 by Bryce Durbin

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

Antitrust

FTC Commissioner Concerned About Antitrust Impact on Already Rising Consumer Prices

Noah Phillips said Tuesday he wants the commission to think about the impact of antitrust rules on rising prices.

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Screenshot of Federal Trade Commissioner Noah Phillips

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2022 – Rising inflation should be a primary concern for the Federal Trade Commission when considering antitrust regulations on Big Tech, said Commissioner Noah Phillips Tuesday.

When considering laws, “the important thing is what impact it has on the consumer,” said Phillips. “We need to continue to guard like a hawk against conduct and against laws that have the effect of raising prices for consumers.”

Current record highs in the inflation rate, which means money is becoming less valuable as products become more expensive, has meant Washington must become sensitive to further price increases that could come out of such antitrust legislation, the commissioner said.

Phillips did not comment on how such movies would mean higher prices, but that signals, such as theHouse Judiciary Committee’s antitrust report two years ago, that reign in Big Tech companies and bring back enforcement of laws could mean higher prices. He raised concerns that recent policies are prohibiting competition rather than facilitating it.

This follows recent concerns that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, currently awaiting Senate floor consideration, will inhibit America’s global competitiveness by weakening major American companies, thus impairing the American economy. That legislation would prohibit platform owners from giving preference to their products against third-party products.

This act is one of many currently under consideration at Congress, including Ending Platform Monopolies Act and Platform Competition and Opportunity Act.

Small businesses have worried that by enacting some legislation targeting Big Tech, they would be impacted because they rely on such platforms for success.

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Big Tech

Small Business Owners Call for FTC, DOJ to Institute Antitrust Measures Against Big Tech

Small business owners vocalized concerns at a forum hosted by the FTC and the DoJ.

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Screenshot of FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2022 – Small business owners and employees urged the Federal Trade Commission last week to take further action against big tech company mergers that dominate their markets.

With Washington’s focus on scrutinizing potential mergers, small business members that appeared on a forum Thursday hosted by the FTC and Justice Department pushed for antitrust measures against market monopolization that they said undermines small business success. Jonathan Kanter, the assistant attorney general for the antitrust Division, called this a “new generation of digital giants.”

Saagar Enjeti, host of a media podcast, expressed his inability to participate in a truly free and open internet due to the influence of big tech companies, in which he said there has been a rash of misinformation on the coronavirus, the 2020 presidential election, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist who invests in tech startups, said he wants the FTC to have “more scrutiny” on big tech mergers. “The FTC should aggressively do everything in its power to do the job itself,” said Tusk.

Erin Wade agreed for more scrutiny on monopolies in which DoorDash and UberEats compete. As a restaurant owner, she said delivery mega platforms are harming restaurant profits and disrupting their business via tactics including underpricing their delivery fees and “bund[ling] orders so badly it damages customer relations.

“Small businesses are central to the American economy and American democracy,” Wade said during the event, pushing for the FTC to place more scrutiny on big tech companies.

According to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, as several digital platforms continue to control the market today, anti-trust agencies should do what they can to encourage competition and provide checks on these big tech companies.

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Section 230

Parler Policy Exec Hopes ‘Sustainable’ Free Speech Change on Twitter if Musk Buys Platform

Parler’s Amy Peikoff said she wishes Twitter can follow in her social media company’s footsteps.

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Screenshot of Amy Peikoff

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2022 – A representative from a growing conservative social media platform said last week that she hopes Twitter, under new leadership, will emerge as a “sustainable” platform for free speech.

Amy Peikoff, chief policy officer of social media platform Parler, said as much during a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday, in which she wondered about the implications of platforms banning accounts for views deemed controversial.

The social media world has been captivated by the lingering possibility that SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk could buy Twitter, which the billionaire has criticized for making decisions he said infringe on free speech.

Before Musk’s decision to go in on the company, Parler saw a surge in member sign-ups after former President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter for comments he made that the platform saw as encouraging the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, a move Peikoff criticized. (Trump also criticized the move.)

Peikoff said she believes Twitter should be a free speech platform just like Parler and hopes for “sustainable” change with Musk’s promise.

“At Parler, we expect you to think for yourself and curate your own feed,” Peikoff told Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark. “The difference between Twitter and Parler is that on Parler the content is controlled by individuals; Twitter takes it upon itself to moderate by itself.”

She recommended “tools in the hands of the individual users to reward productive discourse and exercise freedom of association.”

Peikoff criticized Twitter for permanently banning Donald Trump following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and recounted the struggle Parler had in obtaining access to hosting services on AWS, Amazon’s web services platform.

Screenshot of Amy Peikoff

While she defended the role of Section 230 of the Telecom Act for Parler and others, Peikoff criticized what she described as Twitter’s collusion with the government. Section 230 provides immunity from civil suits for comments posted by others on a social media network.

For example, Peikoff cited a July 2021 statement by former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki raising concerns with “misinformation” on social media. When Twitter takes action to stifle anti-vaccination speech at the behest of the White House, that crosses the line into a form of censorship by social media giants that is, in effect, a form of “state action.”

Conservatives censored by Twitter or other social media networks that are undertaking such “state action” are wrongfully being deprived of their First Amendment rights, she said.

“I would not like to see more of this entanglement of government and platforms going forward,” she said Peikoff and instead to “leave human beings free to information and speech.”

Screenshot of Drew Clark and Amy Peikoff during Wednesday’s Broadband Breakfast’s Online Event

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Mr. Musk Goes to Washington: Will Twitter’s New Owner Change the Debate About Social Media?

The acquisition of social media powerhouse Twitter by Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, raises a host of issues about social media, free speech, and the power of persuasion in our digital age. Twitter already serves as the world’s de facto public square. But it hasn’t been without controversy, including the platform’s decision to ban former President Donald Trump in the wake of his tweets during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Under new management, will Twitter become more hospitable to Trump and his allies? Does Twitter have a free speech problem? How will Mr. Musk’s acquisition change the debate about social media and Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act?

Guests for this Broadband Breakfast for Lunch session:

  • Amy Peikoff, Chief Policy Officer, Parler
  • Drew Clark (host), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Amy Peikoff is the Chief Policy Officer of Parler. After completing her Ph.D., she taught at universities (University of Texas, Austin, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, United States Air Force Academy) and law schools (Chapman, Southwestern), publishing frequently cited academic articles on privacy law, as well as op-eds in leading newspapers across the country on a range of issues. Just prior to joining Parler, she founded and was President of the Center for the Legalization of Privacy, which submitted an amicus brief in United States v. Facebook in 2019.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

Illustration by Mohamed Hassan used with permission

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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