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S.1024 – The Bust Up Big Tech Act [pdf] (senate.gov)
38 points by jasonhansel 25 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 49 comments



If I understand this correctly, the law would prohibit Amazon from selling their own brands on their marketplace and they'd have to split AWS into a separate company within a year.


"... the law would prohibit Amazon from selling their own brands..."

Nothing to stop Amazon from running a gigantic marketplace for their own brands. The bill targets middlemen.

   EXCEPTION.  Paragraphs (1) and (2) shall not apply to the operation of an online platform for any person that exclusively sells, advertises, or otherwise promotes the goods and services of the person.


"To promote competition in digital markets, and for other purposes."

I think the "other purposes" is part of the key here of why a certain Mr Hawley submitted this bill. If you want to bust up big tech, just bust up the big ones.


> If you want to bust up big tech, just bust up the big ones.

It only applies to platforms with >1.5B in global revenue, so you have to be reasonably big to be affected by it. I agree with the distrust of Hawley's motivations, though.


The post title is incorrect, the bill was introduced as S.1204 https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/120...


Look, some of us prefer the base 2, ok?


So, S.10010110100?


Any other country would sell their first born to have just one of the Big Tech companies. The US has all of them, and yet wants to break them apart and hamstring them.


Other countries (notably the EU) recognize foreign interests as a threat and force them to comply with competition law. The US was notoriously lax with antitrust ever since Bush decided to stop prosecuting the Microsoft case. If anything, this is just regression to the mean.

Big Tech is fundamentally the result of two things:

1. A favorable regulatory environment for owning everything (e.g. lax antitrust, little to no ownership restrictions, open international markets)

2. A favorable creators' monopolies regime so that everything can be owned (e.g. absurdly-long copyright terms, patents that cover round rects, etc)

The first term makes it possible to buy everything under the sun and the latter makes it advantageous to do so. We've already seen this in media; but Congress likes the idea of having Disney be the cultural imperialism arm of the US Government. Congress also liked the idea of Big Tech being it's propaganda arm for a while, too; until they realized that Big Tech wasn't going to play ball in the same way Hollywood does.


EU is not a country. It is a maze of red tape that applies its regulations to its subjects without any consequences to themselves or any accountability what so ever. UK left EU for a a reason and more countries will follow suite soon.

> The first term makes it possible to buy everything under the sun and the latter makes it advantageous to do so. We've already seen this in media; but Congress likes the idea of having Disney be the cultural imperialism arm of the US Government. Congress also liked the idea of Big Tech being it's propaganda arm for a while, too; until they realized that Big Tech wasn't going to play ball in the same way Hollywood does.

All these are good things for USA. USA burning its tech sector might be good for EU but not good for Americans.


You have the EU upside-down. It's not something that imposes upon it's member states, it's something it's member states use to impose their desired policies upon themselves.

When a political party in a member state wants to support something unpopular, they push for it behind closed doors with other member states in the EU. Then the politician blames the EU for being too bureaucratic or something to throw the blame off themselves.

The UK leaving the EU was not a reasoned act of statecraft; it was Tories trying to solve their own political problems by proposing a referendum they expected to fail. When it turned out to win by a hair, everyone involved immediately jumped ship. The thing is, all of the red tape and bureaucracy are things that citizens complain about. Politicians are the ones imposing it and the EU is just the rubber stamp they use.


You'd think so; that is an old narrative.

But right now I know of people who are burning the midnight oil due to all the red tape introduced by Brexit.

Empirically, it turns out the EU might actually have been an engine for the reduction of red tape all along. :-/


> EU is not a country. It is a maze of red tape that applies > its regulations to its subjects without any consequences to > themselves or any accountability what so ever. UK left EU > for a a reason and more countries will follow suite soon.

Yes, exactly.

Just because some people are in the EU parliament via a democratic vote does not mean they are accountable to anyone.

Least of all, you know, voters.

Sheesh.

You have clearly got a number of hobby horses you want to flog. But the thing with people who flog horses is, they often do not realise they are already dead.


Meh, people thought it was the end of the world when they broke up AT&T. Now with almost 40 years of hindsight it's clear that breaking it up created tons of extra consumer choice as well as truckloads of shareholder value. It was a win-win.


That was a government monopoly it was illegal to compete with. Of course it's better as a free market.


20 years later some nativist American politician will ask why USA is not a leader in tech anymore and will run on 'Make America Geek Again' campaign.

This is a race to bottom where US is finally competing with Europe.


I say this all the time to people complaining about Amazon taxes. They employ hundreds of thousands of people, and contrary to popular belief, it's not slave labor.


How many jobs and how much tax revenue from places effectively put out of business by Amazon has been lost, though? It’s not as if Amazon has created these jobs and its market out of thin air.


> It’s not as if Amazon has created these jobs and its market out of thin air.

It's not zero sum. Amazon creates value out of thin air.



The big tech monopoly in China is even worse - with the players owning basically all communications and payments too


Isn't it more of a duopoly between WeChat and AliPay?

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/27/technology/alipay-china.h...


> IN GENERAL. A covered person may not provide online hosting services or back-end online services to any other entity that is not owned by the covered person

Huh? That doesn't seem to make sense.


Apple must divest iCloud; Amazon must divest AWS; Microsoft must divest Azure, etc. I guess alternatively they could divest their marketplace, exchange and search engine components instead of their backend components.

The goal here seems to be to run up a ton of forced divestures in a “here’s what I want you to do, you figure out how to do it” way.

EDIT: https://www.hawley.senate.gov/senator-hawley-introduces-bust...

Here’s the PR statement out of Senator Hawley’s office, for the summary.


A "covered person"…

> means a person that is in the business of offering an online platform to connect third parties to an online marketplace, exchange, or search engine which

…followed by some stipulations on users and revenue. So as I understand it, Amazon/Google/Microsoft would have to spin off AWS/GCP/Azure, etc.


Adding those two things up, it sounds like it says

A person that is in the business of offering an online platform to connect third parties to an online marketplace, exchange, or search engine may not provide online hosting services or back-end online services to any other entity that is not owned by the covered person.

I don't know how you offer an online platform without providing back-end online services.


For example, Amazon could not simultaneously operate Amazon.com (the e-commerce website) and AWS (the cloud provider). They'd need to choose one or the other.


Maybe that's the intent, but it sounds like Amazon couldn't simultaneously operate Amazon.com and Amazon.com back-end services for sellers.


They cannot provide those backend services for sale. They can own computers to provide their amazon.com service.

"A covered person may 15not provide online hosting services or back-end 16online services to any other entity that is not 17owned by the covered person"


Does that end the amazon marketplace?


I'm just guessing, but it seems like the point of that part is to keep big tech companies from being able to effectively kill off competition by also owning the platforms that competitors would build on.


This is also from Hawley's website:

> Example: Amazon cannot continue to operate an overwhelmingly dominant retail business and simultaneously own an enormous share of the cloud computing technology upon which the internet itself is built.

Is there any evidence that Amazon actually leverages this? Or is able to leverage it?


https://www.cnet.com/news/amazon-reportedly-used-data-from-s...

Amazon regularly accesses their own platform's sales data to determine how to make competing products.

I would not be surprised if this was the game everywhere else, though. Remember: physical retail invented a lot of the scummy business tactics we complain about with Amazon.


From what I can tell, that had nothing to do with AWS.


See: January 2021


This seems like the best translation.

If you control your competitors infrastructure, you have a unique power position and the ability to shut off hosting at any moment.

Sure the tenant could fight in court but by that time their business is dead.


It doesn't make sense, it's word salad like the rest of the bill. It's specifically intended to get a rise out of his constituents.


It means if you work for a company that runs an online marketplace/search engine of a certain size (i.e. Amazon, Microsoft, Google), you can't offer cloud compute services to other companies.

I agree though, it's a mess to follow this. It takes effort to make a seven page bill so convoluted. It's the spaghetti code of law.


You have to realise this is not English but legal English


I believe the term you're looking for is "legalese".


Among other weird things, something that sticks out is how this is worded as to make individual employees liable for civil damages for the actions of their employer (Private Right of Action on page 6/7).


Not a lawyer, but I think that the phrase "covered person" refers to corporations, not their employees. (Legally corporations are "persons.")


Ah, that would explain why "covered person" and "covered company" are used seemingly interchangeably without "covered company" ever being defined.


What's the definition of a "covered company" here? I only saw the definition for a "covered person" in the bill. Without that, it's impossible to understand even the first prohibition:

> A covered person may not sell, advertise, or otherwise promote goods and services of the covered person on an online platform owned or operated by the covered company.

Are they actually the same thing? Companies can be persons, just not natural persons.


There is a little more to it, but more than $1.5b in revenue is a requirement to be a covered company


Does this stand a chance?


Hawley is the only Senate sponsor, and there is no companion legislation in the House, so likely no.


Isn't big tech censorship arm of the ruling party what is the benefit for democrats voting for this. Am i missing something here?


If I'm reading correctly, this law does two things

One is a clear first amendment violation, the other bans cloud hosting offerings like AWS, GCP, and Azure.




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