New Project Launched as 'Direct Counterweight' to Big Tech

The silhouette of a man is seen in front of Amazon and Apple logos on September 5, 2018. (Photo: Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

New Project Launched as 'Direct Counterweight' to Big Tech

"We are at a watershed moment with bipartisan support to finally break up the Big Tech monopolies that hurt consumers and small businesses."

The Tech Oversight Project launched Tuesday in an effort to push back against major technology companies' lobbying on Capitol Hill and advocate for greater regulation of the industry.

The project is beginning with a focus on federal antitrust legislation, employing a "campaign-style" strategy to fight for passage of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (H.R. 3816/S. 2992), which would outlaw certain anti-competitive conduct by major platforms.

Warning that "Big Tech's monopolies are putting our country, our children, and our future at risk," the group's website details the industry behavior that has motivated the new effort:

Despite stifling online competition, spreading disinformation, contributing to online harassment and real-world hate crimes, undermining small businesses, and knowingly harming our collective mental health, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon continue to operate without accountability and to profit from these practices. These corporations have platformed terrorists, lied to Congress, and weaponized our personal data against us, while leveraging their power to crush small business and innovation. Along the way, they have robbed consumers of the diverse and useful services a once-pluralistic web offered.

Such conduct--which has been exposed by whistleblowers as well as investigations by reporters, state attorneys general, and Congress--has fueled support for sweeping action by both federal lawmakers and regulators.

While some have pushed for reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as Common Dreams has reported, digital rights advocates have long warned that doing so "would be devastating for human rights, social movements, and marginalized people."

Sacha Haworth, executive director of the Tech Oversight Project, toldThe Washington Post that the battle over Section 230 is "a distraction" and a "red herring."

In a statement reported by The Hill, Haworth explained what the project sees as politically possible, saying that "we are at a watershed moment with bipartisan support to finally break up the Big Tech monopolies that hurt consumers and small businesses."

"Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon all know that; that's why they're pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into swampy lobbying efforts to deceive voters and run down the clock on antitrust reform," she said. "Simply put: we won't let that happen."

According to the Post, the project is a response to Big Tech-funded groups such as the Connected Commerce Council and NetChoice, which fight against regulation.

"Our aim is to be a direct counterweight to those organizations that have been lobbying for the status quo for years," Haworth said, adding that because Democrats could soon lose control of Congress, "pouncing upon this moment right now is critical."

The newspaper noted that "Haworth, a veteran of Democratic politics, said she wants to bring the 'aggressiveness' and single-minded focus of a campaign to the fight to regulate Big Tech."

The Tech Oversight Project is primarily funded by the Omidyar Network and the Economic Security Project, which were started by Big Tech critics who previously worked in the industry.

The Omidyar Network is the philanthropic venture of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, also known for backing The Intercept. The Economic Security Project is co-chaired by Chris Hughes, who has advocated for breaking up Facebook, which he co-founded.

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