In a last-ditch attempt to wishcast support for the American Innovation and Online Choice Act, the sponsors of the bill gathered in a press conference filled with contradictions and awkward moments. As a part of this effort, the main architects of the legislation conveyed so much misinformation regarding their own bill, that they demonstrated either a concerning lack of knowledge regarding its contents or are intentionally selling lies to the American people.
In an attempt to downplay the primary criticisms of their legislation, Congressman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) purposely misstated the criticisms surrounding the legislation in order to avoid addressing the actual criticism of the legislation. For example, Cicilline said that “nothing in this bill prevents any platform from offering the products of services that consumers today enjoy such as Amazon Prime.” While it is true that Amazon Prime would technically remain intact, the problem is that it would be stripped of all the features that make it such a popular service. The bill prevents users from organizing search results on Amazon to see if it is eligible for Prime and bans Amazon from continuing to list and distribute the products of third-party selling partners.
Unsurprisingly, Cicilline made another straw man argument when he asserted that “the bill will not prevent Amazon from providing free shipping or other services to its Prime members.” Again, that was not the criticism. What he leaves out is that it will prevent Amazon from providing the 2-day guarantee on its free shipping. It is as if the bill is allowing for the continued manufacture of ketchup bottles but banning the ketchup. The skeleton of the services will technically still exist, as Cicilline is asserting, but hollowed out for everything that makes them popular amongst users.
Representative Ken Buck proceeded to admit during the press conference that he “does not understand antitrust law.” This statement comes despite him being a main sponsor and advocate of a bill that will radically reshape antitrust law. He is asking his fellow lawmakers to support the reshaping of a set of laws that he does not understand.
Buck claimed that the primary basis for supporting the legislation is that “there is something wrong when companies, that are this big, control speech platforms in a democracy.” However, later on in the press conference Cicilline directly admitted that the bill does not address these companies controlling speech in a democracy whatsoever when he said, “there is nothing in this bill that would…make it more difficult for platforms to have content moderation policies.” Buck is choosing to support this bill for addressing a problem that his own fellow co-sponsor admits the bill does not address.
These wild contradictions and attempts to avoid engaging with the bill’s fundamental problems would not be happening if the sponsors were confident and fully knowledgeable about this bill. However, the press conference suggested a great lack of confidence and knowledge about AICOA from its main advocates. The effort to pass this bill so soon in spite of this confusion suggests an attempt to rush through a major radical progressive bill in order to give the Biden Administration a major win before the midterm election. Instead, Congress should reject passing this radical bill that is nothing but a bundle of problems and unintended consequences.