Big Tech’s Chorus of Critics Grows Ahead of Hill Hearing

Big Tech

Thursday (Jan. 20) looms as an important day in the annals of legislation targeting and likely reshaping Big Tech. But the dominant names in the space are getting pushback from other avenues, where this week a new coalition has levied a slew of grievances against the Googles, the Amazons of the world, et al. And a group of smaller tech firms have seemingly banded together to call out what they’ve termed Big Tech’s “self-preferential” business tactics

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to discuss and mark up and vote on the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, and perhaps also the Open App Markets Act. There may be a long road ahead before anything comes up for full votes, but the writing on the wall is clear — namely, that marketplaces and platforms, and Big Tech in general, will be under scrutiny and under fire, with competition in the crosshairs.

As noted by PYMNTS ahead of the Hill hearing, among the two bills is the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which aims at preventing Big Tech firms from favoring their own services over others. The bill would apply to platforms that have 1 billion worldwide monthly users, so it is clear that the biggest of the large tech companies (and not solely U.S. firms) are the key subjects here.

The other bill that will be debated in the Senate is the Open App Markets Act, which seeks to introduce more competition in app stores and takes direct aim at Google and Apple. This bill would affect primarily Google and Apple. If approved, the bill will ban the tech companies from requiring developers to use in-app payment systems as a condition of being distributed on an app store.

Read also: Apple and Google Face Moment of Truth With Senate Hearing Over Antitrust Bills

Smaller Tech Firms Chime In 

What seems a loose coalition of smaller tech firms have lobbed a shot over Big Tech’s bow, having sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee to “favorably” take up the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.  The letter is signed, among others, by Yelp, Sonos and DuckDuckGo.

“Findings from the United States and governments around the world reveal the many anticompetitive self-preferencing tactics dominant technology companies use to attain and entrench their gatekeeper status in the market to the detriment of competition, consumers, and innovation,” the letter stated.

“Dominant technology companies can: use manipulative design tactics to steer individuals away from rival services; restrict the ability of competitors to interoperate on the platform; use non-public data to benefit the companies’ own services or products; make it impossible or complicated for users to change their default settings or services or uninstall apps,” the companies noted.

It’s worth repeating that this group, informal though it may be, includes Yelp, which in years past has been a vocal critic of companies like Google over competition and content use.

Read more: Yelp Says Google Is Still Scraping

The CEOs of Sonos and Yelp have also met with the White House this week to lobby for the legislation that is being mulled on the Hill this week, as reported by Yahoo Finance.

And now, this week, comes the Tech Oversight Project, reportedly funded, as reported by The Hill, by the Omidyar Network, under eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and the Economic Security Project, a nonprofit that is in turn helmed by Facebook Co-founder Chris Hughes.

“We are at a watershed moment with bipartisan support to finally break up the Big Tech monopolies that hurt consumers and small businesses,” Sacha Haworth, the group’s executive director, said in a statement that announced the group’s launch and goal of urging lawmakers to support “comprehensive antitrust legislation.”

The chorus against Big Tech grows louder, and legislation seems just around the corner.