A bipartisan bill that would rein in the power of tech industry giants is heading for a vote in the U.S. Senate this summer, and corporations like Google, Amazon and Facebook are engaged in a multi-million dollar advertising and lobbying campaign to scare vulnerable incumbents from doing anything in an election year.

The target is the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota and co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. It would block large online platforms like Amazon or the Apple App Store from giving their own products an advantage over those made by third party sellers.

The tech companies have been pushing digital ads that try to raise doubts about the bill. Mainers may have seen the ones aimed at New Hampshire voters and the state’s vulnerable Democratic incumbent, Sen. Maggie Hassen. Her chief of staff was cited in a Politico report last week, begging to put off the vote, suggesting that the lobbying campaign is working.

The ads suggest that any interference with the tech giants’ dominance would hurt consumers by disrupting supply chains and slowing economic growth.

But it’s more likely that modernizing antitrust law would permit the kind of competition that these companies have succeeded in crushing and loosening their stranglehold on the marketplace. History is not on their side: From the breakup of Standard Oil in 1911 to Ma Bell in 1982, trust-busting has been good for consumers and economic growth.

There is evidence that even if the tech giants’ do-nothing message is working with senators, it may not be resonating with the public, especially not those who have had the experience of trying to get their products through the anti-competitive online marketplaces.


On an online forum for sellers last week, an Amazon executive published a post, encouraging merchants to contact their senator to oppose the bill. Hundreds of sellers posted comments letting the company know that they would not be supportive.

One commenter sarcastically wrote: “Yes, I’m going to oppose that Amazon will be prohibited from undercutting, manipulating the buybox, and instituting restrictions on certain listings that unfairly bar me from selling an item. Yup, writing to my senator right now.”

Another wrote that, “Any informed seller is going to support massive action taken against Amazon in the antitrust arena. I am personally sick of the condescending posts by Amazon management directed at us. We are not morons and know how to read and think for ourselves.”

Third party sellers make up about half of Amazon’s sales, and have become increasingly angry about the costs of using the marketplace, and the unfair competition they face from Amazon products.

We are living in an era of political polarization and partisan deadlock. But we shouldn’t let that make us lose sight of bipartisan efforts to make life better. The tech giants should not be allowed to use the money they have made to buy protection from competition, instead of having a fair marketplace that works for everyone.

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