US Congress has finally released the text of the final omnibus spending package, likely the last piece of legislation to move this year. The following statement can be attributed to Fight for the Future director, Evan Greer (she/her):
“The good news is that this package does not include the dangerous “Kids Online Safety Act” (KOSA), a misguided piece of legislation that would have created an end-run around Section 230 and led to censorship of LGBTQ+ and abortion rights content. Fight for the Future helped lead mass opposition to KOSA, including a letter signed by more than 100 human rights and LGBTQ organizations. We heard directly from Congressional leaders that this advocacy had an impact. Congress should protect children’s rights and safety by advancing comprehensive data privacy legislation that strikes at the heart of Big Tech’s surveillance capitalist business model.
The terrible news is that Congress failed to advance actual tech reform bills including the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), the Open App Markets Act (OAMA), common sense antitrust legislation that would have banned Big Tech giants from abusing their gatekeeper power to crush competition, paving the way for alternative services with better business models or nonprofit governance structures (think: Wikipedia) to compete and gain network effect. They also failed to advance the American Data Privacy Protection Act (ADPPA), needs to be strengthened, but also would have been an improvement over the status quo.
Big Tech giants spent more than $200 million lobbying, standing up fake astroturf organizations, and running misleading TV ads in swing states to just barely defeat these bills. But the blame lies squarely at the feet of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Biden. Democrats had control of both houses of Congress and the White House, they promised to rein in Big Tech. We built a massive grassroots coalition consisting of literally hundreds of civil society groups, human rights organizations, small and medium sized businesses. We built massive bipartisan support for the bills, and it has been an open secret in DC for months that if they hit the floor, they would pass overwhelmingly. Schumer blocked the bills, and Biden let him do it. It’s essential that we hold them accountable for failing to deliver on this promise.
But Big Tech lobbyists should keep the champagne corked. They just lit a mountain of money on fire and still barely squeaked by. Congress did advance more funding for antitrust enforcement and tougher merger fees, over Big Tech’s objections, and Silicon Valley’s monopolies are facing lawsuits, enforcement actions, and pending regulation in the US, Europe, and around the world. Public support for thoughtful and meaningful regulation of Big Tech abuses is at an all time high. Our movement is growing every day.
Big Tech’s days are numbered. Once we’ve outlawed their gatekeeper abuses and banned the commercial surveillance that drives their profit and monopoly power, their empires will begin to crumble. And in the meantime, we’ll continue building the Internet we want and need: one where everyone has basic rights, freedom of expression, privacy, and safety.”