Senators Elizabeth Warren and Lindsey Graham’s Digital Consumer Commission Act is a threat to free speech, granting excessive censorship powers under the guise of combating online harassment. The bill’s ban on preferencing assumes consumers are incapable of making informed choices, unfairly penalizing businesses for providing better services. This proposed legislation not only hampers tech industry innovation but also infringes upon businesses’ rights to operate their platforms and products independently.
Market Institue President Charles Sauer explains why in a new article at Real Clear Markets.
“Democratic authoritarian Senator Elizabeth Warren has teamed up with Republican authoritarian Senator Lindsey Graham to introduce the Digital Consumer Commission Act. As the name suggests, the bill creates a new federal commission to regulate Big Tech, or “dominant platforms” as it is known on the Hill. A dominant platform is any tech company that meets certain revenue and active user criteria.
Senators Warren and Graham claim that this commission will stop dominant tech companies from mistreating their consumers, their smaller competitors, and their workers. But the truth is that this bill harms all three of these groups. Warren and Graham claim they want to preserve free speech online. But the bill gives their commission broad powers to engage in online censorship in the name of preventing bullying or harassment. The bill also gives the commission the power to create a standardized content moderation policy that can be implemented by other tech companies to police speech.
One need only imagine what Biden Administration bureaucrats would do with the authority to define and regulate such nebulous activities as online bullying and harassment, much less to draft a model policy for content moderation. Since Graham is one of the Senate’s leading cheerleaders for restricting civil liberties in the name of national defense, it is no surprise that the proposed commission will be empowered to censor any speech deemed harmful to national security. If the bill passes, we can expect to see more flagging and removal of posts deemed to be “foreign disinformation”.
The bill also gives the commission the authority to ban “preferencing.” Preferencing refers to firms using search algorithms to display their own products, or even sellers that pay for better service, rather than those of competitors. The push to outlaw preferencing assumes that consumers are too lazy and stupid to scroll further down the list of search results, to visit third party sites for objective reviews and rankings, and that it somehow benefits large platforms to sell inferior goods. The ban on preferencing would harm small businesses that have figured out how to scale their business by leveraging these platforms.
The bill gives the commission the power to stop platforms from setting the conditions under which smaller companies are permitted to use their platforms. For example, this would prohibit Amazon from requiring that third party sellers on their site use Amazon’s shipping or warehousing services for Amazon Prime. The reason Amazon does this is to guarantee their customers two-day Prime shipping for certain products, something that would not be possible if they are unable to control the shipping process. This policy would also bar Amazon from selling its own products through Amazon Marketplace. That’s right, Lindsey Graham wants to stop companies from selling their own products on their own platforms.”