Congress can be like a frozen lake in the Midwest, hard on the surface but a school of fish under the ice. While Democrats are at odds over spending, and Republicans are at odds, senators from both parties are cooperating to create bipartisan legislation to bring a handful of big-tech companies under new no-confidence regulations.
If they succeed, these senators are going to prove that with a little hard work and cooperation, leaders in Washington can still reach across corridors to the detriment of consumers and the economy.
For months now, many have been discussing legislation to curb the power of Big Tech. One of them, Sen. Chuck Grassley, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is concerned about business density. He has religiously steamed about the major social media platforms that thumb the scales against conservative content. In it he joins members of the judiciary Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Tom Cotton and other conservatives.
Taking on Big Tech is a red-hot passion for Republicans. Posts, books and videos with a conservative slant have been de-platformed by social media companies, and some right-risk organizations have been de-monetized with short explanations. Although these organizations have the First Amendment right to select their content, they should be excluded from most of the national conversations that have been deported by them.
Sen Grassley thus sees the need for such additional energy control. Over the months, he has worked behind the scenes with his Democratic colleague Sen. Amy Klubutcher to legislate to cut the sails of “influential platforms,” explicitly targeting Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook.
In a recent webinar interview, the Iowa Republican told me that the bill he is discussing with Klobuchter must not be an extension of the five heavy House bills developed by unreliable subcommittee chairman David Cecilin and other progressive leaders. I got a glimpse of the latest iteration of the Senate draft, which captures the worst features of the House Bill with some new additions.
Like the House Bill, the Senate draft assumes that companies violate the law when they “like” their own products or services. It may be illegal for the retailer to highlight any product sold to its prime customers. This will prevent Apple from promoting its apps and restricting useful features. This may prevent Google from displaying search results from YouTube.
Companies defamed as violators will be fined 15% of the revenue, more than double Amazon’s net profit. Yet companies can thus be given “unfair” preference – a legal standard based on a vague, subjective adjective that would give regulators and politicians the freedom to pick and choose their goals. Some see it as an import of EU regulators’ baseball bat anti-trust strategy. Indeed, the Senate’s draft would give progressive regulators in the Federal Trade Commission the kind of, discretionary power that Russian authorities enjoy.
The Klobuchar Bill would be an economic ruin derby. For example, denigrating Amazon will create a chain of losses to harm small and medium-sized businesses that rely on this online sales network. If faced with legal obligations to engage in any general retail practice, Amazon will be forced to close its market to these vendors in order to remain competitive. These provisions, which are intended for tech companies today, ensure that President Biden’s 72 executive actions will follow a path of distrust. Leaders in manufacturing, agriculture, finance and retail are trying to keep their heads down. But the incredible move against Big Tech today will surely clear the way for all of them tomorrow.
In short, the Klobuchar draft – as it has been unveiled so far – lacks clarity and consistency of current legal standards, consumer welfare standards. For 45 years, the court has said that unreliable measures should be taken only when the proposed consolidation, acquisition or practice harms consumers. Thus, the court protects the competition to protect consumers. Klobuchar will protect the draft contestants, which will end the special plea point. This will result in politicization and armament of law.
If Sen. Grassley and other conservatives want to address the behavior of conservative discourse, they should consider Sen.-John Thun’s co-sponsoring platform, the Accountability and Transparency Act (PACT). The law will require a social media platform that provides clear criteria for measuring content that enjoys Internet liability protection, a full explanation of why the speech was removed, and a way for consumers to appeal quick decisions.
Republicans who support anti-no-confidence laws to return deleted posts and tweets on Big Tech are throwing an atomic bomb to hit a pebble. The final casualty may be the free market itself.