Sunday December 04, 2022

Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai are personally lobbying senators against antitrust legislation: report

New antitrust legislation is a concern for the largest tech companies in America. According to Punchbowl News, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been “calling and meeting” senators to urge them to oppose the proposed legislation. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is the legislation in question, which is a bipartisan bill led by Amy Klobuchar (D–MN) and Chuck Grassley. The legislation is still in its early stages and will be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee today. To become law, the bill must pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, it’s easy to see why it’s being criticized by Silicon Valley’s most powerful beasts.
This legislation prohibits online platforms to favor their own products, services, and lines of business over those of competitors. It is only applicable to the largest tech companies: Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, Facebook-owner Meta and Apple. Bloomberg News reports that it will also be extended to include Chinese tech giants TikTok, WeChat, and TikTok. These platforms would be prohibited from using non-public data of customers to compete against them, such as biasing search results in favor of their competitors, limiting access to platform data for rivals, or using non-public data to limit their access to them. This is something that companies like Amazon and Google have been accused of.
While it is impossible to predict the exact impact of the legislation, Apple is concerned about a potential threat to its App store business model. Apple sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee stating that if the bill becomes law, it would allow users to “sideload,” or install apps from outside the App Store. Apple claims that this compromises the security of its users and cuts into one its main revenue streams (Apple receives up to 30% commission on App Store sales).
A spokesperson for Klobuchar stated to Bloomberg that Apple’s arguments were not valid. “The bill doesn’t force Apple to allow unscreened applications onto Apple devices. Apple’s arguments regarding’sideloading” are really a desperate attempt by the company to maintain their app store monopoly. They used to charge high fees from businesses that they were competing with.
Tech’s largest companies are strongly opposed to the Klobuchar–Grassley bill, but smaller players have endorsed the legislation. A group of 35 tech companies wrote a letter to Senator Judiciary Committee leaders arguing that the legislation was necessary to stop “the many anticompetitive self preferencing tactics dominant technology firms use to gain and maintain their gatekeeper status.”
“For too long, dominant tech companies have made it difficult to compete in digital marketplace by abusing gatekeeper status to allow themselves and their partners preferential access and treatment on their platforms,” stated the letter’s signatories. They include DuckDuckGo and Patreon as well as Sonos, Wyze and Wyze.
This is not the first time that top executives from Big Tech have mobilized against antitrust legislation. Cook called Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, to warn against “rushed” legislation last year as US politicians were considering five antitrust bills.

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