In recent weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee has brought antitrust legislation back into focus, advancing the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act, both of which lawmakers said would prevent big tech companies from stifling smaller competitors.
The public, meanwhile, appears supportive of the idea that the consumer benefits of big technology companies do not outweigh they're having unfettered power.
A new Morning Consult poll found that 67 percent of U.S. adults believe that the benefits some large tech companies provide to their customers are not an acceptable trade-off for the industry’s increasing power and the undermining of small businesses, while the remaining 33 percent said the benefits are worth it. Those figures are virtually unchanged from a Morning Consult poll conducted in December 2019.
But while much of the public said it wants to see big tech companies reined in, polling also indicates it is reliant on many of the services they provide, underscoring consumers’ prioritization of convenience – and the tall task lawmakers and regulators face in getting total public buy-in for their antitrust pursuits.
Lawmakers said those pieces of legislation — which respectively prevent large tech companies from prioritizing their own products and services over others and require app stores to make distribution easier — are necessary as a few dominant companies like Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., and Meta Platforms Inc. dominate various sectors of life including retail and communications.
The public has strong feelings about the power of the technology sector compared to others. In a list of various sectors, 60 percent of adults said tech companies had “a lot” of power — a share that has climbed 8 points since December 2019.
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With that power apparently comes increasing calls for more regulation: 38 percent of the public said the federal government should regulate technology companies more, a 9-point increase from the 2019 survey. The share who said that tech companies are regulated enough (24 percent) was unchanged over the past two-plus years.
In addition to the various pieces of antitrust legislation advancing through Congress, the Federal Trade Commission is leading several investigations and lawsuits against tech companies to determine if they have undermined competition.
But there is nearly a split in public opinion on whether antitrust reviews will work: 42 percent of adults said they believed the investigations will be effective, while 37 percent said they will be ineffective.
The FTC has come under fire from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which released a report last month arguing that the agency’s efforts to pre-emptively stop what it believes are anti-competitive practices through rulemaking risk the stifling of innovation.
Aurelien Portuese, director of antitrust and innovation policy at ITIF, said while there should be some guardrails against anti-competitive practices, businesses must be allowed to be disruptive without fear of running afoul of regulators.
“The more you’re disruptive, the more you’re innovative, the less you fit into the boxes of what the regulatory agency has thought about,” he said.
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Spokespeople for Amazon and Meta did not respond to requests for comment. An Apple spokesperson declined to comment.