TechnologyJanuary 12, 2022American Innovation & Choice Online Act: What it Means for Business

The Latest Big Tech Legislation & What it Means for Businesses

In an increasingly digital age, with everyone buried in their phones and laptops, we have access to the most innovation and information of any generation before us. With this in mind, big tech companies have made waves in favor of both people and corporations. 

As a result, places like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are massive conglomerates in tech, often directing these industries. Moreover, many serve as a lifeline in times of crisis where being in-person for goods and services is difficult or even impossible—such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress has recently proposed a bill, one that affects digital industry as a whole. What this bill means and how it impacts businesses big and small are what we’ll be covering in this article.

Legislation has a history of using complex language, so we’re going to break it down into something easier to understand in a way that doesn’t hold any bias. We’ll get into potential negative consequences later in this article, so let’s start with the simplified breakdown.

Understanding the Basics & Intent

This American Innovation & Choice Online Act was launched in October 2021 by Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley in an effort to curb some of the power massive tech companies have over advertising practices that businesses large and small must adhere to. The intent behind the bill was to allow for consumer choices not to be dictated by what they considered to be “harmful” practices performed by large tech corporations.

As stated in Section 2 Subsection A Numbers 1 – 3, simply put “covered platforms” (Google, Bing, etc.) cannot:

  • Unfairly preference themselves—or others related—over competitors in their listings;
  • Unfairly limit specific business’s ability to compete on said platform; or
  • Discriminate against particular business users in a way that would materially harm them while not keeping the same standards for others.

This similarly applies to Section 2 Subsection B Numbers 1 – 7 where it states summarily “covered platforms” cannot:

  • Place preference on companies that purchase certain services from the covered platform;
  • Materially restrict certain businesses from retrieving their own data for use off the covered platform and onto another;
  • Treat ranking and placement in searches fairly and not favor their own products or services; or
  • Use non-public data gathered from a business using the covered platform for their own gains.

The intent is clear: the monopolization of large tech companies favoring certain businesses—especially their own—over others is wrong. The intentions may be good, but what does it mean in practice?

The impacts of this bill are paired with a few others alongside it, many of which are much, much longer and go over other specific issues.

Negative Ways This Could Affect Users

Prefacing this section with “could” is crucial because nothing negative has happened as of November 2021, but understanding consequences—good or bad—is important for any legislative decision.

Many large tech companies like Amazon and Google have opposed the bill, saying that the legislation would “break” many features that may potentially make finding small businesses in their ranks more difficult. For example, the Google VP of governmental affairs is quoted saying, “the bills would require us to degrade our services and prevent us from offering important features…”

Two adjacent bills proposed alongside the primary one would order larger companies to “break up” in a way, requiring structural changes that could affect how consumers find results when they search for products or services on platforms like Google and Amazon. 

Google claims that this could create issues for search results pairing specific contact info for companies and problems regarding their apps like Calendars, Gmail, and Docs no longer seamlessly working together as one. This claim likely stems from the “breaking up” the tech conglomerates’ service areas in one of the adjacent bills separate from the American Innovation & Choice Online Act.

Both companies also claim that this would harm small and medium-sized businesses that host on their platforms, quoted as saying it could have “severe negative effects.” Much of their elaborations claimed that small and medium-sized companies would no longer have access to customers they otherwise did or that they would disappear from results entirely. 

While this is stated nowhere in the primary bill, they’ve requested that congress “slow down” and reevaluate the language used in order to mitigate “unintended negative consequences,” such as those they claim could happen to small and mid-size businesses.

What You Can Do

Compared to many others, the primary bill in question is not long, so it may be worth looking through if you feel it may affect your business. Regarding the several other bills proposed alongside this one, much of the intent is to level the playing field with massive tech companies.

Could this negatively impact small businesses? That remains to be seen. But ultimately, companies must take the reigns on their online marketing strategies, whatever the outcome.

When it comes to your business, utilizing search engine optimization (SEO) and high-authority backlinking is one way to ensure you rank highly among your competitors, whether it be local or national. From blogging to SEO pages to social media, there are many ways you can promote your business and get yourself out there.

As times evolve, so must commerce, and so must the folks running that commerce. Digital marketing in our modern age is almost required for companies to stay ahead of their competitors and reach the eyes of their target audiences, so never neglect your online presence.