Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Big Tech Antitrust Bill

Big Tech

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved antitrust legislation that blocks some of the world’s largest tech companies from showing favoritism to their own products or services.

As The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday (Jan. 20), the American Innovation and Choice Online Act will now go to the full Senate following the committee’s 16-6 approval.

The Journal report notes that while the bill has bipartisan support, some senators expressed reservations, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Alex Padilla, both of California, which is home to several big tech companies.

“It’s difficult to see the justification for a bill that regulates the behavior of only a handful of companies while allowing everyone else to continue engaging in that exact same behavior,” said Feinstein, who nonetheless voted for the bill, as did Padilla.

“This bill is not meant to break up Big Tech or destroy the products and services they offer,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the judiciary panel. “The goal of the bill is to prevent conduct that stifles competition.”

Read more: ByteDance, Tencent, Added to Senate Antitrust Bill

U.S. tech companies have argued the bill would hamper innovation, put privacy and security at risk by opening some platform functions to competitors and damage products enjoyed by customers.

Smaller tech companies like Yelp have backed the bill. Some competitors say Google and Amazon systematically favor their own products on their search engine and marketplace, a practice that landed Google a 2.7 billion euro ($3.05 billion) fine in Europe.

Apple wrote to the Judiciary Committee arguing that the legislation would diminish the privacy protection feature it set up in 2021, and that those policy changes have been effective.

The bill was amended at the 11th hour to include two Chinese social media giants — TikTok owner Byte Dance and Tencent Holdings, which owns WeChat — to address concerns from the tech industry.