Limited-Government Group: Don't Use Antitrust to Punish Edge

Americans For Prosperity is pushing back on Washington's current push to regulate the edge.

AFP has launched an ad campaign to run in senator's home states and in their temporary home--D.C.--that will run over the next two weeks. It targets senators because of Senator and Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up big tech if she gets elected.

Related: Demand Progress Pushes for Breakup of Facebook

The thrust of the ad campaign is not to politicize antitrust enforcement. Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have been under pressure to provide more muscular oversight of the Edge, and both have indicated they are on the job.

That has been spurred by revelations about edge mishandling of user info, including sharing with third parties; data breaches; its treatment of hate speech; its use as a tool by foreign adversaries, including Russia in the 2016 election; its exemption from liability for third party conduct; allegations of algorithmic discrimination in advertising (HUD this week charged Facebook with discrimination in housing ads), censorship of conservative speech, and more.

Related: Walden Says It's Time to Seriously Consider Breaking Up Edge

AFP said it is OK with that FTC/DOJ oversight, just not with politicians pushing beyond the bounds of the antitrust law for the sake of scoring political points.

“If we use antitrust law to punish successful competitors, we eliminate incentives for innovation," said AFP senior tech policy analyst Bill Easley. "Government should not be empowered to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. To prevent a politicization of an important process, antitrust decisions should be made by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice -- not by political leaders campaigning for elected office."

"[M]y Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition — including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google," Warren said earlier this month in outlining her plans to go after Big Tech.

Her plan is to designate large tech companies as "Platform Utilities" and "broken apart from any participant on that platform." For example, she said "Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform utilities under this law. Therefore, Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart. Google Search would have to be spun off as well."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.