AUSTIN (KXAN) — One of the groups behind advertisements targeting a big tech antitrust bill says it’s spending millions of dollars nationwide, including Austin, to try and defeat the legislation in Washington.
KXAN viewers may have seen the ads by the bipartisan non-profit Taxpayers Protection Alliance, or TPA, urging conservatives to tell their senators to “reject the left’s attacks on America’s tech innovators.”
One ad features a plea from a military mother of the year. Another puts Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Elizabeth Warren front and center.
The clips are pointed at S.2992, also known as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. The antitrust effort targets a handful of tech behemoths including Meta, Google, Apple, and Amazon.
The bill was introduced late last year by a bipartisan group of senators led by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Texas senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have so far been split on the issue with Cruz voting to advance the legislation out of committee and Cornyn expressing doubts.
Part of the bill would prohibit those companies from discriminating against competitors that rely on their services. For example, Apple would not be able to prioritize its own apps in search results in the Apple app store.
“The Big Tech companies do not want competition online,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI), an advocate of the bill. “They want to keep their gatekeeper power and their monopoly profits intact,” he said while speaking at a news conference in alongside Sen. Klobuchar in June.
The plan has the backing of Amy Perez, founder and CEO of Austin-based company Pretty Frank which sells natural deodorant products on amazon.
“It’s just really important that smaller brands like ours have a level playing field,” Perez told KXAN.
But another component of the legislation would require big tech to let any company access its platform, regardless of who they are or where they’re based.
That’s where the TPA’s ads come in. One of them states S.2992 would “make it easier for Chinese hackers to steal our online data.
TPA Executive Director Patrick Hedger told KXAN while he feels the bill is a “noble” effort, his group worries it could “grant open access” to anti-American groups or governments.
“Potentially, not just to low-level hackers and cyber criminals, but state actors and companies, nationalized companies stood up by countries like China,” Hedger said.
University of Texas at Austin law professor Abraham Wickelgren—who teaches antitrust law—told KXAN the TPA’s claims are “not completely out of left field.”
Wickelgren added while security risks are possible, forcing tech giants to play ball with competitors could more likely lead to consumers being overwhelmed, like when you buy a new smartphone.
“Presumably, you don’t want to have your iPhone loaded with, you know, five different map apps. I think that would be the bigger concern,” Wickelgren said. “But obviously, that’s not as dramatic, so that’s probably why it’s not it’s not featured as heavily in these advertisements.”