The Latest Antitrust Push Could Render Our Tech Devices Virtually Useless
Congress should halt its legislative crusade against Big Tech before it kills modern convenience.
It’s surprising that at the same time American lawmakers are taking a stance to protect American innovation globally, they’re also pushing radical proposals that bring even more regulation and government overreach into our phones, our watches, and our laptops. Just this month, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust proposed and marked up a flurry of bills that threaten consumer tech products as we know them. Because of this misguided policy, American tech products could become some of the most useless in the world. America’s lawmakers should focus on fostering competitive markets, not gutting our iPhones, reverting the internet to a series of hyperlink archives, and killing affordable brands we love.
If even one of these bills makes it through the cracks of Congress, the result would devastate American consumers — driving up the prices of products we love while also taking away a digital ecosystem that’s gotten easier to use and kept our social lives moving last year during the coronavirus pandemic. Imagine Microsoft Surface without Windows, Amazon but no Amazon Prime shipping, iPhones with no preloaded Apple apps, or Google with no smart search.
America has the most successful and innovative tech industry in the world. A devastating blow against our own tech industry as proposed in the House Judiciary’s antitrust package wouldn’t benefit everyday Americans, instead it would leave American consumers and our global tech leadership in the dust for decades to come.
America’s objective, economics-based approach to antitrust and focus on protecting consumer welfare has supercharged America’s economic growth and led to 13 of the Top 20 companies by market capitalization being based here in the U.S. In fact, America’s leading businesses have simultaneously driven down the price of tech and other goods while increasing American GDP over the last two decades — a win that ensures Americans can access the latest tech products with ease.
But none of the House Judiciary proposals actually focus on the consumers at all, instead choosing to focus on outlawing business practices politicians and antitrust activists don’t like. In order to hamstring “Big Tech,” these bills will empty American wallets and leave us with fewer trustworthy options.
The House Judiciary package would ensure companies cannot compete as both sellers and marketplaces — so no AmazonBasics on Amazon.com, no Windows on Microsoft computers, and no preloaded Apple apps on iPhones. It means getting rid of the generic brands American consumers buy every day. Why? Because the House Judiciary thinks removing affordable, quality products prevents competitors from keeping up. For people like college students and single parents on a budget, proposals like these could make making ends meet that much harder.
In fact, the House Judiciary package would even ban search engines from closely integrating results from their own products or lines. By removing this type of integration, search results would become hyperlink archives without user-friendly results. We’d have to click through and read hundreds of sites just to find a safe place to eat or stay when an integrated result could provide what you’re looking for instantaneously. When shopping, that would mean the best deal on a certain product would no longer be the easiest-to-find result as integrated buy boxes like Amazon’s that ensure high quality at the best price could no longer exist.
As if removing innovative options wasn’t enough, these bills would also jeopardize our privacy and safety online. The bill would rather force websites to allow harmful apps on our devices and then share our data with these unknown and untrusted developers. The antitrust package forces websites to give the blueprints on how to get and manipulate our personal information, so fraudsters and trolls would have an easier time inundating the online ecosystem with malicious software and inappropriate content.
While these bills would create a myriad of inconveniences for everyday Americans, for populations that rely on more accessible products, these bills could prove quite harmful to their day-to-day lives. Individuals who manage debilitatingly chronic pain like me, for instance, would lose innovative integrations that make everyday tasks easier. If these antitrust proposals are enacted, we might find our voice-enabled devices are even more susceptible to personal data breaches. We’ll be less able to ship affordable groceries at the click of a button because default voice integration and trustworthy buy boxes would simply have disappeared. And on our worst pain days, we’ll struggle to do the simplest of tasks on user interfaces we know can be simpler and more intuitive.
In killing the convenience and trust America’s leading businesses provide, the House Judiciary package disregards the American consumer in its crusade to hogtie “Big Tech.” And if we’re not careful, we’ll be forced to watch sadly from the sidelines as our phones and our online experiences become yet another misguided casualty to fight Silicon Valley.
Kir Nuthi is the Public Affairs Manager for NetChoice. She tweets at @kirnuthi.