New House Bills Would Ban These 15 Tech Conveniences That Consumers Love
Democrats should focus on making people’s lives better, not messing with stuff people already like
UPDATE 6/16/21: We’ve sent a letter to Congress with additional analysis on the tech services that these bills would ban or degrade.
With all the challenges facing our country — pandemic recovery, crumbling infrastructure, racial equity, and climate change — it’s a bit strange that some policymakers think our biggest problem worth fixing is…Amazon Basics batteries.
According to press reports, Democrats on the House Antitrust Subcommittee are about to release several bills to curb the power of Big Tech. Some of the ideas, like boosting funding for law enforcement agencies and encouraging data portability, are laudable. We all want the government to police companies that hurt people, and all consumers want control over their own data.
But based on preliminary reporting, two proposals from Rep. David Cicilline and Rep. Pramila Jayapal inexplicably target a whole host of tech conveniences that save people time and money and put tech to work for people.
Specifically, their bills would impose new “nondiscrimination” and “conflict of interest” provisions that would turn Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft into the phone company, barring the kind of integrated product design that makes their product more useful for hundreds of millions of people. Cicilline and others have called this “Glass-Steagall for the Internet.”
To help illustrate the real-world impact of this proposal, here’s a list of 15 tech conveniences that Cicilline and Jayapal’s bills would effectively ban:
1. Amazon Prime free shipping
By requiring equal treatment of all products and marketplace sellers, the bills would make it impossible for Amazon to offer its Prime free shipping service for certain products:
2. Google Maps appearing in Google search results
The bills would prohibit Google from showing its maps in main search results when you search for a local business.
3. Facebook and Instagram cross-posting
The bills would make it impossible for Facebook to show your friends’ Instagram stories at the top of the news feed — and ban users’ one-touch cross-posting between Facebook and Instagram.
4. Apple’s App Store recommending the best apps
Because the bills ban platforms from discriminating among services that use its platform, Apple’s App Store could no longer recommend the best apps.
5. LinkedIn integration into Microsoft Office
Because Microsoft owns Linkedin, the bills would ban its integration of Linkedin contact info into Microsoft Office 365.
6. Amazon’s “buy box” recommending the best deal
Because the bills ban platforms from “choosing between similar companies that you host,” Amazon’s “buy box” could no longer recommend the merchant with the best price and customer service.
7. Facebook Marketplace and Groups alongside your Facebook news feed
Under the bills, Facebook wouldn’t be able to show its Marketplace and Groups on the same page as its News Feed.
8. Song lyrics in Google search results
Looking for song lyrics quickly? Google wouldn’t be able to just show you lyrics and would instead have to show you links to multiple lyric sites.
9. Apple apps pre-installed on iPhones
The iPhone wouldn’t be able to come with any Apple apps pre-installed — making it harder for the novice user to quickly get started with Safari, Note, or Apple Podcasts.
10. Google recommending the top-rated florist
Because the bills would impose an “equal treatment” principle, Google wouldn’t be able to show you the top-rated pizza place in town.
11. Facebook’s “mark safe during a disaster” tool
Facebook couldn’t promote its own tools, like its Safety Check during disasters or crises.
12. YouTube videos in Google search results
Because Google owns YouTube, it wouldn’t be able to display YouTube videos in Google search results when you search for a song or video.
13. Find My Phone in Apple’s iOS
Apple would be blocked from pre-installing its “Find My” tool on iPhones and iPads.
14. Amazon Basics brand products that save consumers money
Amazon would be effectively banned from offering its customers its money-saving generic brands.
15. Calculator results in Bing’s search results
Microsoft’s Bing browser couldn’t display its own calculator in search results — and would instead have to steer users to calculator websites.
Democrats should focus on what helps consumers
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently said that “the strong suit for the Democratic Party has always been what we believe in…[that] government is there to help people, help them economically.” This relentless economic focus powered Democrats’ historic House gains in 2018.
And yet Rep. Cicilline and Jayapal’s new proposals forget this lesson. Giving antitrust enforcers more funding and encouraging data portability are relatively uncontroversial ideas, but banning conveniences like Amazon Basics brand batteries, Apple’s Find my Phone tool, or Google Maps appearing in Google search results are ideas that would spark a consumer backlash.
Instead of focusing on helping families, these proposals inexplicably target a bunch of technological conveniences that most people really like. Let’s hope Democrats stay focused on the right things.
The Chamber of Progress (progresschamber.org) is a new center-left tech industry policy coalition promoting technology’s progressive future. We work to ensure that all Americans benefit from technological leaps, and that the tech industry operates responsibly and fairly.
Our work is supported by our corporate partners, but our partners do not sit on our board of directors and do not have a vote on or veto over our positions. We do not speak for individual partner companies and remain true to our stated principles even when our partners disagree.