July 12, 2022
As conservatives, we believe in free markets. But free markets require functioning markets. When trillion-dollar Big Tech monopolists Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook use their market power to crush competition, shutter small businesses, and cancel conservatives, we no longer have a free market for online communication and commerce.
The conservative solution is law enforcement, including updating and enforcing our century-old antitrust laws to target the anticompetitive tumors in the market so we don’t need industry-wide regulations. Indeed, monopolists — like Facebook – publicly welcome these business-crushing regulations, as they serve as entry barriers to startup competitors. Instead of regulations, we must break up Big Tech.
Big Tech’s threat to the free market was on full display in 2021 when Amazon, Apple, and Google blamed Parler (a startup competitor to Twitter) for January 6th (when it was largely organized on Facebook) and all three removed the free-speech social media application from their platforms in a span of approximately 24 hours. Amazon went as far as removing Parler from its cloud hosting service, which resulted in their website no longer being accessible on the public internet. Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, which control 99 percent of the app marketplace, both removed Parler as well. The combined and coordinated effort made it impossible for Parler’s customers to access its services.
When just three corporations can decide to essentially wipe a competitor’s product off the face of the Earth overnight, it’s obvious that drastic steps need to be taken to restore consumer choice in the market. The “Open App Markets Act” (S.2710) promotes competition and reduces gatekeeper power in the app economy, increases choice, improves quality, and reduces costs for consumers. It is absolutely critical that conservatives support this bill to prevent these coordinated attacks – which are orchestrated and carried out by Big Tech companies – from taking place ever again.
While banning competitors from app stores is obviously egregious, there are many other anticompetitive practices in which Big Tech companies engage that often fly under the radar. For example, the algorithms and systems that influence the content presented to consumers who express interest in purchasing a product are designed to put small businesses at an overwhelming competitive disadvantage.
Of the 2.3 million active third-party sellers on Amazon’s worldwide marketplace, it is estimated that 37% of them rely on Amazon as their sole source of income. Amazon has a well-documented record of self-preferencing practices with its wholly owned subsidiaries and “Amazon Basics” brand, leading consumers to be exposed to Amazon’s own products before their competition. Google answers more than 90% of the world’s search queries, and a study conducted in 2020 revealed the company devoted 41 percent of the first page results on mobile devices to its own properties.
These practices may not be as overt, but they nonetheless result in devastating consequences for small businesses that deserve fair treatment in the free market. The “American Innovation and Choice Online Act” (S.2992), sponsored by my former boss Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and conservative all-star Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., sets commonsense, pro-free-market rules for major digital platforms to ensure they cannot unfairly self-preference their own products and services. Supporting this bill should be a no-brainer for conservatives.
In addition to using their immense power to force competitors out of the marketplace and limit their exposure to potential customers, Big Tech companies also control the flow of information in the public square. As we’ve seen happen time and time again, Big Tech monopolies result in the censorship of opposing viewpoints. Never before in our country’s modern history have so few people wielded so much power over what Americans read on a daily basis.
We’ve watched elected officials, such as Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, receive baseless suspensions for daring to state facts that go against the narrative pushed by these woke corporations. In his case, Paul, a practicing medical doctor, was suspended for “violating YouTube’s Covid-19 medical misinformation rules” after simply questioning the efficacy of cloth masks.
They’ve even gone as far as suspending the nation’s oldest newspaper, the New York Post, for accurately reporting on the disturbing contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. If a leading conservative media outlet can be suspended in the crucial weeks leading up to a presidential election, it’s clear that Big Tech companies will do everything in their power to put their finger on the scales of our elections. In doing so, they threaten every American’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression.
Conservatives were elated to hear that Elon Musk planned to purchase Twitter and finally put an end to the platform’s arbitrary, anti-free speech so-called “content moderation” practices. With the deal now looking dead in the water, this serves as a stark reminder that we shouldn’t have to rely on benevolent billionaires to save us and our right to free expression. We must update federal law to protect the online public square, so real dialogue can take place, free from Big Tech’s tyrannical censorship.
There is a narrow and rapidly closing window of opportunity this summer for Congress to pass antitrust legislation that will finally begin to rein in Big Tech companies. Conservatives in the House and Senate must put their constituents first and join their colleagues in supporting these bills.
Mike Davis is the founder and president of the Internet Accountability Project, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization that opposes Big Tech and seeks to hold these companies accountable for their bad acts. He was previously chief counsel for nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee under the chairmanship of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA.
Unlike the Big Tech monopolies, the Internet Accountability Project pledges to never sell or share your personal information, which is your property.