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Big Tech CEOs Push Congress to Oppose Antitrust Legislation, Reports Say

The Senate is considering a big vote on antitrust legislation that could change how these companies do business.

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CEOs of tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google are personally calling on members of Congress to urge them to oppose an antitrust bill that could change how these companies do business, according to multiple news reports. 

Politico reported on Friday that Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has been directly calling senators to lobby against the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa. Politico cited anonymous sources. An Amazon spokesperson said that Jassy "meets with policymakers on both sides of the aisle regarding policy issues that could affect our customers." But the company did not comment further. 

Several news outlets have reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai is planning an in-person visit to Capitol Hill next week to meet with senators in both parties. One congressional hill aide told Politico that Pichai will be discussing antitrust legislation among other topics. 

"We regularly engage with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on a range of issues including economic growth, small business support, immigration reform and cybersecurity," Google spokesperson Jose Castañeda said in a statement to CNET. "We'll continue to engage on issues relevant to people and businesses using our products." 

Apple CEO Tim Cook was in Washington last week to meet with lawmakers. The CEO discussed the company's willingness to work with lawmakers on privacy legislation, according to CNBC. And he also talked about opposing antitrust legislation, according to the Politico story Friday. Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from CNET.

The high-level lobbying efforts come as the Senate is expected to vote in the next few weeks on the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would bar these companies and other platforms from favoring their own products and services over competitors. If passed and signed into law, this legislation would mark the most meaningful change to antitrust law in decades. It would force changes in how big tech companies do business and how their products operate, and it could even break up companies. 

For Amazon, if the bill becomes law it could bar the company from favoring its own private-label products over its competitors' products on its e-commerce platform. For Google, a change in the law could bar Google from giving its own services like Google Maps top priority in search results. The law would also prevent Apple from preloading its own apps onto iPhones. 

The tech companies oppose the bill and have argued that such laws will actually mean fewer choices for consumers and higher prices for products. Amazon published a blog earlier this month slamming the proposed legislation. Google also published a blog criticizing the bill. Trade groups representing some of the biggest names in tech, including Amazon, Facebook and Google, have spent at least $34 million since January 2021 on an advertising campaign to oppose the antitrust legislation, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.  

Supporters of the legislation say larger technology platforms have too much power and can easily run smaller competitors out of business. They argue that restrictions on these platforms are needed to help ensure that smaller companies can compete. 

Versions of the bill in the House and Senate have advanced out of both chambers' judiciary committees with bipartisan support. The Senate version advanced earlier this year. The House bill advanced nearly a year ago, along with five other proposals aimed at curbing the power of these giant tech platforms. 

In 2020, the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust published its 450-page report concluding that Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook use their monopoly power to stifle competition. The legislation also has support from US President Joe Biden's Justice Department as well as the Commerce Department.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, hasn't yet scheduled a vote on the antitrust bill. 

Meanwhile, four Democrats -- Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin -- this week sent a letter to Klobuchar asking her to revise the antitrust legislation to prevent unintended consequences that would limit companies' ability to moderate violative content. 

Still, the senators said that overall they support the bill and would vote for it.