By: Doug Kelly, CEO, American Edge Project
Another week, another round of Congressional hearings about the need to rein in “Big Tech.” While there will be plenty of overblown accusations and verbal pitchforks, here are seven things that lawmakers won’t speak about at this week’s hearings.
1) America’s Technology Companies And Innovation Provide Our Country With A Key Global Competitive Edge
While it is now fashionable to be against America’s tech companies, lawmakers need to understand that technology and tech innovation is not just another sector of the economy. Rather, it is the entire backbone of our country’s national security, our economic competitiveness, and of the advancement of American values both at home and abroad. Tech innovation also greatly benefits U.S. consumers, providing them with free or low-cost services and access to high-powered platforms that help them find the greatest value for their dollar.
2) Damaging Tech Innovators Damages Our Economic Recovery, Especially Small Businesses
American tech innovation has created jobs and economic growth in our country, affording millions of Americans with new opportunities. Millions of small businesses have also been able to enter new markets and reach new customers around the world. Throughout the pandemic, technology emerged as a crucial bridge for countless small businesses to survive amid social distancing and other public health measures that significantly reduced in-person revenue. For many businesses, social media and other online marketing tools enabled them to keep their doors open, continue doing business and even reach new customers online. Breaking up tech companies, restricting lines of businesses, and other innovation-damaging legislation would hit the brakes on our country’s economic recovery.
3) Breaking Up U.S. Tech Companies Jeopardizes Our National Security
American technology companies help preserve our country’s national security interests, and innovation is critical to advancing America’s defense and cybersecurity strategy. With the growing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks, America’s technology companies are playing a key role in combatting and deterring cyberthreats. The United States risks critical long-term national security consequences if it relinquishes its global leadership role in technology. Policies that forfeit our competitive edge to foreign entities with diametrically different values put the safety, privacy, and economic prosperity of Americans at risk.
4) Harmful Laws Against U.S. Tech Companies May Hand China A Permanent Advantage That We Will Be Unable To Overtake
China’s grand ambition is to be the world’s leading power. To accomplish that, China knows it must erode our technological edge, both by acquiring core technologies and increasing its own capacity for innovation. Even President Xi himself admitted that China’s low-level of domestic innovation is its “Achilles’ heel” of its global plans. China is committed to eroding the U.S. tech advancement by any available means – through trade, mergers, acquisitions, or by outright theft from the U.S. and its allies. For example, every year, China steals more than $500 billion in intellectual property (IP) from the U.S. Rather than acting to punish U.S. tech companies, lawmakers should be pushing to thwart China’s dangerous global ambitions.
5) A Free And Open Internet Helps Advance And Protect Our Values At Home And Abroad
A free and independent technology sector helps to preserve and advance democracy and democratic values. Recent events in China and other “techno-autocracies” have highlighted the importance of the technology sector in preserving the ability of average citizens to communicate with one another about topics of public concern. Political considerations that advance one side’s agenda should not influence any proposed regulation of the technology sector.
6) Policymakers Pushing Tech Regulation Are Out Of Touch With Their Voters And Pursuing A Low Priority Issue
Voters in 32 frontline districts rated regulating U.S. tech companies as a comparatively low priority, below all others tested. Only 19% of voters in frontline districts say it is their top priority. Instead, they want their representatives to focus on protecting American national security (91% top-major priority, 61% top priority), jobs (88% top-major priority, 52% top priority), and health care (86% top-major priority, 58% top priority). These same voters believe breaking up tech companies will make the United States less economically competitive (83%), more vulnerable to cyberattacks (87%), and be less able to conduct counterterrorism efforts because would-be terrorists will be more dispersed across multiple platforms, making it more difficult for law enforcement to find them (84%).
7) Will Lawmakers Make The Same Mistake With American Technology As They Did With American Manufacturing?
American manufacturing muscle was once the envy of the world. But short-sighted policies passed by lawmakers in DC devastated the U.S. manufacturing base. In fact, over two decades, America lost 5 million manufacturing jobs (nearly 30%), causing many families and communities to spiral into despair. Policymakers need to learn from this manufacturing mistake. They need to both vigorously protect our country’s technology and innovation edge and fully understand the long-term consequences their actions may have. There’s too much at stake for Washington lawmakers to get it wrong…again.
To be clear, American tech firms do not always get it right. But they are responsive to concerns, adjusting features and making improvements accordingly. Large tech firms have also asked Congress to update the rules of the internet. This includes critical items such as 1) Federal privacy legislation, so consumer data is protected, and companies have a single set of clear rules under which to operate and compete; 2) transparency in content moderation that ensures bigger companies invest meaningful resources in removing harmful content and users understand the criteria and have avenues of appeal; and 3) election integrity, especially against foreign influence operations.