Campaigners urge US Senate to address Big Tech's monopoly

Big Tech illustration
(Image credit: Ascannio / Shutterstock)

Digital rights campaigners are urging US Senators to address what they consider "the fundamental problem that plagues our online ecosystem."

From Alphabet (parent company of Google and YouTube) to Meta (Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp), Apple, and Amazon, just a handful of US companies - known as "Big Tech" - monopolize the market. 

While internet users can choose to protect themselves online using tools like the best VPN services, they still don't have much of a choice regarding the platform to use.

This is why 29 civil organizations - including Article 19, Access Now and Fight for the Future - signed an open letter to express their support for new antitrust bills that will soon pass through the Senate.

Specifically, they believe that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, and the Open App Markets Act represent a "unique window of opportunity to change the system."

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"Big Tech’s massive power over our economic, social, and political lives has been left unchecked for too long. It has produced enormous harm to democracy and led people to normalize the violation of their fundamental rights," said Maria Luisa Stasi, Head of Law and Policy for Digital Markets at ARTICLE 19. 

"It is time for the U.S. Congress to act to tame this power."

Accountability and new opportunity for innovation

Not surprisingly, some of the companies targeted are raising concerns that the bills might ultimately harm businesses and consumers. 

However, digital rights advocates believe that the two proposed legislations are the right path to mitigate some of the biggest issues in today's tech world. It's claimed that it will eventually boost accountability and open up new opportunities for innovation, too.

"Big Tech owns the world’s eyeballs, and, with no competition to challenge and offer a way out from their abusive practices, they won’t change their ways unless regulation ends their dominance," they wrote.

Hands holding mobile phone with justice icon on top

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Campaigners point out two elements that would benefit from the bills turning into law:

  • Fueling disinformation and hate: They think that the laws will help regulate how platforms censor and promote content online;
  • Data abuse and surveillance: Campaigners said that a market enabling healthy competition will allow people to choose a platform more in line with customers' privacy and digital rights expectations.  

With companies of the likes of Alphabet, Apple and Meta being widespread all around the world, a more regulated US sector will then have the potential to impact the global online world.

"It’s time to change the rules and embrace new opportunities for a more competitive internet that centers human rights. This is impossible without leadership from U.S. elected officials."   


What is the American Innovation and Choice Online Act?

Introduced in June last year, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act is a proposed bipartisan antitrust law that aims to push Big Tech firms to promote fair competition in the market as well as better respecting their customers' digital rights. 

This includes preventing these platforms from harming competitors by self-preferring their own products. Or making sure their policies are enforced in a non-discriminatory way.  

The legislation is now passing through the Senate, following the Judiciary Committee vote to advance the bill on January 20 with a vote of 16 in favor and 6 against.

What is the Open App Markets Act?

As the name suggests, the Open App Markets Act is a proposed antitrust legislation with the goal of preventing companies operating their own app stores - like Google and Apple - from engaging in harmful behaviors towards their competitors. 

It will also require the owner of the app store to allow users to install third-party apps without using their service, as well as uninstalling preinstalled applications. 

On February 3, the Judiciary Committee passed the bill to the next reviewing stage in a 20-against-2 bipartisan vote. 

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to chiara.castro@futurenet.com