Big Tech vs Washington
We’re going to need to talk about politics for a bit.
Even worse, we’re going to need to talk about American politics. The worst. I know.
But, as I have written here before, if you are interested in Big Tech — and most people on a business site are interested in Big Tech, as it represents some of the biggest and most powerful companies in the world — then you need to understand what is happening in Washington right now.
Specifically, you need to understand what is happening as it relates to the political effort to rein in the power of these insanely large companies. There are currently six Bills that are about to be sent to the House that are all targeted to do just that.
More on those in a second, but first what you should realize here is two things: 1) nothing is ever simple when it comes to U.S. politics, but 2) this might be more simple than most things.
An unease about the power of the Big Tech companies — broadly speaking they are defined as Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL), Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) — is something felt by Republicans and Democrats alike. This is as close to a bipartisan issue as you’ll find in the U.S. right now. There seems to be a real desire to hold someone accountable for the general unease felt by nearly everyone now.
So what, exactly, are they doing? As I said there are six Bills that just went through what’s called the committee stage. That’s where they work out kinks in the Bills and see if there is any chance of it getting passed. All six got through this stage and are now going to the House of Representatives where the real politicking starts. The Dems control the House and are generally supportive of these Bills, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing that they’ll pass.
Of the six, a couple are likely to though. The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act is really just administration — it would approve an increase in fees for businesses looking to file for a merger — and the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act would make it likely that the Feds could choose what venue to hear an antitrust case in. That’s important in the U.S. where you can see vastly different court outcomes depending on what State you are in.
So those will likely pass. The other four are more significant and it’s less clear whether they’ll go through.
The ACCESS Act is looking to create new standards for data portability and interoperability. Boring stuff, really, but important — especially in light of concerns over Chinese owned TikTok’s data ownership. Remember when former President Trump tried to ban TikTok? This speaks to that.
The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act and the Ending Platform Monopolies Act are where the real juicy stuff is though. The former is looking to prevent Big Tech companies from gobbling up the competition — think Facebook owning Instagram — and the latter wants to force these companies that have gotten too big (in the minds of the legislators) to sell them off.
Capitalism doesn’t work without competition, is the thinking.
Obviously the Big Tech companies are going to try to make sure that these Bills either die outright, or are changed to the point that they don’t do what they are designed to do.
How is this all going to play out? Who knows, but it’s going to impact the entire industry.
And, that’s why we need to sometimes talk about politics.