How tech anti-trust legal guidelines could hurt small companies – Orange County Register
California is finally starting to recover from COVID-19 but it’s clear the pandemic isn’t ending anytime soon. Legislators’ work continues to focus on helping small businesses stay afloat while addressing the inequities exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19. However, some legislators have decided to prioritize a package of tech antitrust bills, which represents a complete departure from the issues which matter most to Californians. These bills directly target the very companies who have kept our economy afloat.
Technology companies have positioned California as a global leader in innovation, and some worry these recent proposals could disrupt the tech ecosystem we have worked so hard to create. These proposals overstep, and could have far-reaching impacts on the small businesses which drive our local and national economy.
Throughout the pandemic, digital technology programs developed by some of our state’s largest employers helped small businesses pivot, survive and became deeply embedded in the daily lives of businesses and consumers alike. Putting these critical programs and tools at risk now could be disastrous for those still struggling to survive.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S.2992) targets big tech companies for potential antitrust and consumer choice violations. This bill prohibits certain large online platforms from engaging in specified acts, including giving preference to their own products on the platform, unfairly limiting the availability on the platform of competing products from another business, or discriminating in the application or enforcement of the platform’s terms of service among similarly situated users. Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t take into account the countless small business who leverage online platforms for their survival.
Examples of this legislations impact can be seen by small businesses like, Oh Comadre Candles, a Latin hand-made candle company. Marcella Gomez started the company as a form of self-therapy from her nursing job in 2016 and turned it into her full-time business. Marcella’s products have been featured on Buzzfeed, PopSugar, Remezcla, Mitu, Hello Giggles, Yahoo UK, Perolike, Trend talk Show, WGN Radio (Frank Fontana Show), and Jack Daniel’s Turno 7 showcase. She uses Facebook and Instagram to reach her customers online, where she estimates 95% – 98% of all her business originates. Marcella’s small business exists on the online marketplace, the passing of these tech antitrust legislation will disrupt her business and thousands of other small businesses owned by women and people of color due to.
Legislators on the hill are pushing this package of bills which would prevent major tech platforms from offering popular services almost everyone can currently use for free, restricting key platforms’ ability to provide critical information and tools within their services. Consumers could lose access to services such as the Messenger, Find my iPhone, and Google Maps.
Oh Comadre Candles relies on social media as a way to advertise and connect with her supportive clientele – Marcella targets based on Latina interests and existing audiences and customers. Part of her social media strategy involves utilizing direct messaging, tagged posts and stories to connect with her strong audience base. These free services tech companies have provided has allowed Oh Comadre Candles to grow organically to 76,000 followers on Instagram. A loss of service would inhibit businesses like Marcellas to continue to market their products to their existing clientele.
Should these bills pass as without consideration of the small businesses who rely upon them, could result in businesses losing the opportunity to promote themselves. Consumers will lose the ability to access products and services they need when they need them. Such conveniences would disappear and small businesses would lose essential tools. We need to support small businesses to thrive and flourish in this technology driven ecosystem. We urge legislators to pass policies which help – not disrupt – small businesses owned by women and people of color.
Maria S. Salinas is President and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.