Rep. Ken Buck: Big Tech's monopoly powers must be broken up – conservatives should support antitrust reform

Rep. Buck urges GOP to find common ground on reining in Big Tech

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., addresses concerns from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on bipartisan antitrust legislation to curb the power of Big Tech companies.

Republicans and Democrats recently introduced six bills tackling Big Tech’s market power under our nation’s century old antitrust laws. The bills vary in scope. One bill would give more resources to the antitrust agencies to support ongoing litigation filed by President Trump’s administration against tech titans Google and Facebook. Another bill would create a pro-consumer, pro-competition data portability mandate so consumers can take their data from a platform like Facebook to a competitor platform. 

All six bills have one thing in common: they take on Big Tech’s market dominance that allows them to throttle small businesses, limit consumer choice, and stifle conservative speech online. 

The pro-monopoly lobbyists representing Big Tech are telling Republican members of Congress that these antitrust reform bills will hurt small businesses and limit consumer choice. 

Don’t let them fool you. 

These bills were preceded by ten hearings at which many small businesses that make a living online testified. At those hearings, the small businesses brave enough to testify against the tech titans told members Congress about the ordeals they face trying to get a fair shake from platforms like Apple, Amazon, and Google. 

Amazon was the poster child in this regard.  As documented in last year’s Majority, Minority, and Third Way reports on competition in digital markets, Amazon has 2.3 million active third-party sellers on its marketplace worldwide, and a recent survey estimates that about 37% of them—about 850,000 sellers—rely on Amazon as their sole source of income. 

The report found that Amazon’s conflict of interest as both a seller and host to competitive third-party sellers has created serious challenges for these small businesses. The report concluded “Amazon has engaged in extensive anticompetitive conduct in its treatment of third-party sellers. Publicly, Amazon describes third-party sellers as ‘partners.’ But internal documents show that behind closed doors, the company refers to them as ‘internal competitors.’” 

American consumers agree that it is time for Congress to act.  Recent polling shows that most Americans support this legislation, and they do so across party lines. 

Eighty-six percent of Americans no longer trust Big Tech and 57% of them even support breaking up the Big Tech monopolies. 

American consumers may appreciate some of the conveniences brought to them by Big Tech, but they also know that these conveniences come at a steep price. That price includes a lack of competition and consumer choice online. 

Just as we moved beyond Henry Ford’s mantra that we “can have any color car, so long as it’s black” so too can we move beyond having one search engine and one social media platform. 

Ordinary Americans know they can do better than this.  These bills will free up competition and restore the free market. 

Thanks to this legislation, newly liberated competition will spur innovation and create new options for consumers beyond the “one size fits all” Big Tech platforms’ current offerings. 

Just as we moved beyond Henry Ford’s mantra that we “can have any color car, so long as it’s black” so too can we move beyond having one search engine and one social media platform. 

Antitrust has often played an important role in freeing up competition and spurring innovation. It was not that long ago that the DOJ took action to block Microsoft’s growing dominance in the online browser market. 

Thanks to the DOJ’s intervention, a scrappy start-up named Google survived and grew to become the world’s leading search engine.  Unfortunately, Google has long since forgotten the debt of gratitude it owes to antitrust and it now engages in anticompetitive conduct not dissimilar to Microsoft’s conduct back in the day. 

Even though Google may have lost sight of the important role antitrust plays in preserving competition, consumer choice, and innovation, the rest of us have not.

A final reason for Republican consumers to rally behind these bills is Big Tech’s clear bias against conservative speech. Big Tech and its swamp creatures would have us think that conservative bias does not exist. Unfortunately for them this is not my first rodeo and I know bias when I see it. 

From Big Tech’s clear collusion to throttle conservative social media app Parler from the marketplace earlier this year, to blocking the New York Post Hunter Biden laptop story last year, Big Tech uses and abuses its monopoly power to stifle conservative speech. 

Big Tech’s ability to de-platform and censor conservatives is downstream from its market power. Until Republicans in Congress and elsewhere are prepared to tackle this fundamental reality through antitrust enforcement and reform, Big Tech will continue their illegitimate ways. 

Big Tech’s Republican allies in Congress have argued that there is no role for antitrust in Big Tech markets.  They tell us that the market will correct itself and that Big Tech’s market power will, over time, be defeated by competitive forces. They argue that conservatives can easily “build their own Facebook.” 

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They used to point to Parler as the robust conservative social media alternative.  They argued that competition from Parler is “just a click away.” These are now academic arguments that no longer pass the laugh test of reality. 

Enough is enough. The time to act in now.

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