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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) unveiled a bill Thursday banning companies like Amazon and Google from favoring their own services.

Why it matters: The Senate legislation, which is similar to a bipartisan House bill, shows Republicans and Democrats in both chambers are eager to pass new regulations on the country's biggest technology companies.

Driving the news: Klobuchar, chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are lead sponsors of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.

  • The legislation would prohibit dominant online platforms from favoring their own products or services. It also bars them from discriminating against businesses on their platforms in a way that would harm competition.
  • The bill also bans specific practices the lawmakers say are harmful, including requiring a business to buy a dominant platform's goods or services for preferred placement on its platform, or misusing a business' data to compete against them.
  • The Senate version differs from its House counterpart, in part by reducing the market-capitalization threshold for companies to be considered a covered platform to $550 billion from the House's $600 billion.
  • Other sponsors are Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

What they're saying: "As dominant digital platforms — some of the biggest companies our world has ever seen — increasingly give preference to their own products and services, we must put policies in place to ensure small businesses and entrepreneurs still have the opportunity to succeed in the digital marketplace," Klobuchar said in a statement.

The other side: Critics of the House version have said it would ban services consumers enjoy, such as Amazon's Prime shipping.

Flashback: The House Judiciary Committee in June approved five bills that would:

  • Prevent large online companies from favoring their own products on their platforms.
  • Require them to make their services interoperable and their user data portable.
  • Allow antitrust enforcers to break up companies that both own a platform and offer a competing service on that platform.
  • Limit acquisitions by major tech companies of smaller firms.
  • Other measures include increasing fees for filing mergers, and giving state attorneys general more power over the venue for antitrust cases.

Yes, but: Many of those House votes came over the objections of some California Democrats, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren, as well as some Republicans.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include Sen. Josh Hawley as a cosponsor. of the bill

Go deeper

Dec 1, 2021 - Technology

Lawmakers bring back Facebook whistleblower for encore

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen speaks in front of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee at the European Parliament on November 8, 2021 in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen returns to Capitol Hill Wednesday to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on proposals to revamp online platforms' liability immunity.

Why it matters: Haugen, a former Facebook engineer, has shared troves of internal research documents that lawmakers believe could open a path for legislation overhauling Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, tech's liability shield.

Ina Fried, author of Login
48 mins ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Huawei sanctions snarled chip supply chains

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The largely successful U.S. effort to hobble China's Huawei has benefitted a host of other tech companies — from smartphone makers such as Apple and Xiaomi to chipmakers like Qualcomm to network vendors including Nokia and Ericsson.

Yes, but: The massive disruption to the industry furthered an industry wide mismatch between supply and demand, exacerbating the global chip shortage.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Overturning Roe could strain abortion access even in blue states

The Supreme Court is reflected in a woman's sunglasses during a march Oct. 2. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortions could be harder to access even in states where they remain legal, because those clinics could be flooded with patients from states that have cracked down.

The big picture: This has happened before, and clinics fear the crush of demand would be a major problem in the immediate wake of a decision that would allow states to ban abortion.

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