Democrats plan to take on big tech with 5 major antitrust bills aimed at making it easier to weaken monopolies

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House Democrats plan to introduce five separate bills as early as this week that could dramatically reign in big tech companies’ economic dominance, Politico reported Wednesday.

The bills address a number of lawmakers’ concerns about the growing power of tech titans like Amazon, Apple, Alphabet-owned Google, and Facebook.

One bill, headed up by Rep. Pramilia Jayapal, of Washington, would let the Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission sue to break up tech companies by forcing them to sell parts of their business that present a conflict of interest, Politico reported. That could spell trouble for companies like Amazon and Google, which critics say use their dominance of web hosting and digital ad markets to promote their own products and services.

A second bill, authored by Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, would ban large tech companies from favoring their own products in digital marketplaces they operate and set the rules for, according to Politico. That takes aim at how Apple’s App Store policies impact app developers and how Amazon treats third-party sellers in its marketplace.

A third bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, of New York, would prohibit platform companies from acquiring or merging with potential competitors, Politico reported. That follows criticism of Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, and the FTC’s probe into potentially anticompetitive acquisitions by Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

A fourth bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, of Pennsylvania, would require platforms with more than 500,000 US users, or those designated by regulators as a “critical trading partner,” to make it easier for users to move their data to rival platforms, Politico reported. Lawmakers have criticized Facebook and Google for hoarding users’ personal data in an endless “feedback loop” that helps them maintain their market power.

The final bill, identical to one sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in a spending bill that passed this week, Politico reported, would require companies to pay antitrust regulators more when seeking their approval for mergers. Regulators are vastly underresourced compared to the tech giants they’re tasked with regulating, placing them at a huge disadvantage if they seek to block a merger and it goes to court – increased legal fees could help balance the scales.

The set of bills reflects recommendations from a landmark 449-page House Judiciary Committee report last fall that called the companies monopolies that needed to be broken up.

The report was the result of an extensive investigation in which the committee probed whether major tech companies had used their size and market position to engage in anticompetitive behaviors that unfairly harmed rivals, consumers, and society more broadly.

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I’m a formerly incarcerated person who luckily found success. It’s time to expunge the records of former prisoners and end their perpetual punishment.

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Inmates file out of the prison bakery at the Rikers Island jail after working the morning shift, in New York. Nearly a third of Rikers Island inmates who said their visible injuries came at the hands of a correction officer last year had suffered a blow to the head.

  • The economic toll of a conviction is especially devastating for Black and brown people, who represent 80% of those who have a conviction.
  • A conviction can lead to a loss of half a million dollars over a lifetime.
  • New York State has the chance to reset the lives of more than two million of its residents by passing the Clean Slate NY Act.
  • Ashish Prashar is the Global Chief Marketing Officer at R/GA and a justice reform activist.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I am extremely lucky to be where I am.

I am the Chief Marketing Officer for a global company. I have worked for elected officials in the UK and the US with their press corps and campaign operations. I own a home in Manhattan. And, by the way, I was incarcerated for a “crime”.

Incarceration has the most profound effect on the person who is serving time, but the consequences reach far beyond the prison walls. When I recently shared my story of being a formerly incarcerated person who made it to the C-Suite, I was again reminded of the destructive nature of our justice system. I heard from colleagues whose loved ones struggle to find work; of friends losing out on dream jobs because of background checks, and the emotional and psychological toll of experiencing these disappointments time and time again. The emotional strain on those individuals and their families was all too familiar. “What will become of me, of us?” is a question that never goes away.

My success has been nurtured by providence from people who understood that my mistake would doom me to a Sisyphean challenge, unable to reach the top of that proverbial hill, unless they became determined to help me. That challenge? A criminal justice system that extracts a pound of flesh and, like the vengeful Javert, routinely returns to perpetually punish people like me for a mistake.

My good fortune though, is incredibly rare. I am blessed to have had family members with the means to support me and a prospective employer willing to give me a chance. Many people don’t have this kind of support. For most incarcerated people, once they are out they fall back into cycles of deprivation that usually got them there in the first place, doomed to steal that proverbial loaf of bread again because their criminal records carry a scarlet letter that allows society to treat them as “less than.” We must create an environment where more people can tell a story like mine.

A conviction’s enduring collateral damage can be wide-ranging – permanently barring individuals from basic needs like employment and housing. Even though people who are released are said to be free, they’re not. They are over-supervised, over-policed, pushed out of employment, housing, and school, and often harassed back into incarceration.

More than 70 million Americans have a record and five million are formerly incarcerated people who have an unemployment rate of 27%. Today’s general unemployment rate is around 6%.

The economic toll of a conviction record is especially devastating for Black and brown people, who represent 80% of those who have received a conviction. They experience higher unemployment and poverty rates, and estimates show that a conviction can cause a loss of nearly $500,000 in income over a lifetime.

We are not just causing further economic and emotional harm, we are also wasting potential that could be working to discover cures to deadly illnesses, designing cleaner and greener cities, or, like me, revitalizing Main Street brands. The economic benefits to both employers and the national economy are clear. It’s essential that our laws are changed because we can’t rely on individual acts of kindness or a company to do the right thing.

Wipe the Slate Clean

New York State has the chance to lead the way and give more than two million of its residents a second chance through “Clean Slate” legislation. Advocates and impacted people seek a new law that will automatically seal and expunge a resident’s conviction record once they are eligible.

Right now, the system we have for expungement in New York is broken. It is application-based, extraordinarily difficult to navigate and costly. In the three years since this system was created, less than 1% of eligible people have successfully had their records expunged.

The Clean Slate legislation proposed in Albany is designed as a two-step process to end the perpetual punishment of a conviction record. A conviction will be automatically sealed one year after sentencing on the individual’s last misdemeanor conviction and three years after sentencing on their last felony conviction, not including time incarcerated.

A conviction will be automatically expunged five years after sentencing on the individual’s last misdemeanor conviction and seven years after sentencing on their last felony conviction.

This is a common sense step that will make New York’s communities stronger. And we know that these types of systems work. A recent study found that within two years of clearing their records under Michigan law, individuals’ wages increased by an average of 25%. According to the same Michigan study, five years after benefitting from record clearance, individuals were less likely than members of the general public to commit crimes.

Our system punishes people unfairly. Millions of New Yorkers are needlessly unemployed or underemployed, homeless or without permanent housing, just because they have a conviction record.

Formerly incarcerated people are not a separate population; they are members of our society. They are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and friends and must be treated as such. I may be the exception in this system, but I want my experience to become the rule. That’s why we need the Clean Slate NY Act.

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Puppy protection: A new bill would require breeders to quit stacking caged dogs on top of each other

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Members of the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society of Charlotte assisted Rutherford County, N.C. Sheriff’s Office during the 20th puppy mill bust in three years in the state of North Carolina Thursday, June 12, 2014 at an undisclosed location in Rutherford County, N.C.

  • The Puppy Protection Action would establish new requirements for dog breeders.
  • It calls for puppies to be given room to stand up in their cages and time to socialize with humans.
  • The American Kennel Club has opposed similar measures, saying they impose “arbitrary requirements.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One upside to the pandemic for many this past year was adding a new, four-legged member to their home. People love their dogs, and dogs love them. But new legislation addresses some practices seen as inhumane to pups waiting for a home.

The Puppy Protection Act, introduced this week by a dozen Democrats in the US Senate, aims to improve the conditions in which so many animals are produced: in so-called puppy mills, where caged dogs, one on top of the other, are often deprived of socialization, fresh air, and good hygiene.

Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of Democratic leadership from Illinois, said Tuesday his goal is to protect such animals “from neglectful breeders who have evaded proper oversight and inspection in the past.”

There are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, with over 213,000 dogs kept solely to breed, according to the Humane Society. On average, each mother produces about nine babies a year, coming out to more than 13 million puppies to be sold annually.

But only about 2,000 commercial breeders are subject to regulation by the US Department of Agriculture. And that regulation – the subject of this bill – allows for conditions that animal rights advocates see as deplorable, such as permitting dogs to be kept in cramped cages, stacked on top of each other, in overcrowded rooms.

“We’ve seen animals never leave those stacked cages,” Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, told Insider. “How on Earth is man’s best friend supposed to be socialized and interactive with us if they don’t even have the opportunity to put their feet on grass?”

The bill introduced this week would establish new standards for cage sizes and prohibit their stacking; require that dogs over 12 weeks have unrestricted access to an outdoor play area; mandate 30 minutes a day of socialization with humans and other dogs; and ensure veterinary screening prior to each breeding attempt, limiting mothers to two litters every 18 months and six over their lifetime.

Breeders would also have to make reasonable attempts to find a new home for mothers who no longer produce puppies. Currently, many of these dogs are euthanized.

Sens. Cory Booker, of New Jersey, and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, have also signed on; a companion bill, with bipartisan support, has been introduced in the House.

Puppies as commodities

Almost 50 million households in the United States have a dog, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. That number has surely risen during the pandemic, when shelters and breeders alike reported a surge in demand for furry companions amid the need for social distancing.

As with any business, the incentive of those involved is to make money. And one way to make more money from selling dogs is to have more dogs to sell. Accordingly, The Washington Post reported last year, “breeders were investing more heavily than usual in puppies they could raise into breeding age dogs,” with pet stores buying whole litters of puppies that were not yet born.

With minimal standards in place – and, generally, those who breed fewer than five female dogs are exempt from USDA oversight altogether, federal regulators treating what could be a $50,000 business as a hobby – the boom has meant some breeders have increased their capacity to churn out puppies to the detriment of they and their mothers’ quality of life.

“It’s been our experience with consumers that the rise in complaints about breeders and pet stores is very much tied to the fact that there is this increased pressure to generate more and more of these puppies,” Amundson told Insider.

Stacking animals’ cages helps disreputable breeders multiply their supply of product – living, breathing animals – and leads to some of the worst scenes at puppy mills. With wire cages, waste from one dog simply falls on the canine below, with the concentration of urine that results from storing too many puppies in one room producing not just a foul smell but potentially dangerous ammonia fumes.

Some states have gone beyond federal standards to address the worst of the worst. But advocates say the Puppy Protection Act provides an opportunity to improve conditions across the board. “Whether puppies are sold in pet stores or sold over the internet, they’re sentient beings,” Amundson said. “We want to know that these animals have been treated appropriately, from conception through their homecoming.”

But not everyone supports tighter regulation.

The American Kennel Club, which puts on the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dug Show and represents thousands of breeders, has opposed similar measures in the past.

When lawmakers tried to push a “Puppy Protection Act” last year, the group described its provisions – such as ensuring caged animals have enough room to stand on their hind legs without impediment and have enough space outdoors “to extend to full stride” – as “arbitrary requirements” that would prevent its members from advancing “the art and science of responsible dog breeding.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Governments have been heaping attention and money on ‘high tech’ companies for years. But now that almost every company uses tech, it’s time to spread the love.

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Free Dominos Pizza is delivered at ManorCare Health Services in Spring Township, Pennsylvania, on July 10, 2020.

  • There’s no such thing as a “non-tech” company anymore.
  • The pandemic has pummeled businesses but also forced them to use tech to survive.
  • Policymakers and economic developers need to recognize and adjust to this reality.
  • Ned Staebler has spent the last 15 years as an economic developer practitioner in Michigan.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us several lessons about the economy.

First, the stock market reflects little about the overall health of the broader economy. Secondly, there are two distinct tiers of workers in this country. Workers without a college degree have lost jobs at more than double the rate of their more highly educated peers, and their rebound has been far slower. Neither of these facts come as much surprise to policymakers, and perhaps the wider acknowledgement of these realities will lead to more effective and intentional interventions.

There’s another important lesson that business owners as well as policymakers and economic developers should take from the past year – one that, like those mentioned above, has always been true but largely ignored: Every business is a tech business. This might sound counterintuitive. You may ask, “how can a barber shop or cleaning service be considered a technology business?” But the pandemic has made it clear that for a business to survive and thrive in 2021, it must understand and utilize technology to compete in a global marketplace or with local consumers that even before COVID-19 valued convenience more than ever.

Every business is a tech business

The line between tech and non-tech, long blurring, has finally disappeared. The pandemic has made clear that every business needs to have an intentional strategy to utilize technology to better reach its customers, whether those are diners in their neighborhood or potential new customers hundreds of miles away. Similarly, businesses can use tech to solidify their supply chain, handle logistics, develop new products, and manage their finances. Technology enables every company, even those that have traditionally been focused on their local market, to become a national or international business that exports and contributes base economic jobs to the local economy.

Restaurants that have long resisted online ordering or delivery have been forced to adapt. Retailers who’ve been focused on their in-person sales have joined the world of multichannel marketing and e-commerce, engaging customers who might never step foot in their shop – or even in their city – by building their own websites or using a service like Shopify or by using marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon.
Businesses that run experiences like wine tastings or corporate team-building offsites have discovered the power of video conferencing and created innovative new ways to deliver these experiences virtually. Even industries we think of as “low-tech,” like cleaning services, have learned that their business can grow and thrive if they embrace technology that provides convenience and comfort to their customers.

This isn’t anything new. The most successful businesses have known it for years. After all, when Amazon started, it wasn’t a cloud-selling, data-capturing, Alexa-building behemoth. It was a bookstore with a website. Likewise, no matter what Uber tells you, it’s a taxi service with an app. Post-COVID, small businesses can still tap into these new revenue streams, increasing their profits, but only if they have the skills and the resources to utilize this technology effectively.

Policy adjustments

The utilization of technology has tremendous implications for public policy across the country. For decades, economic developers have been laser-focused on creating jobs in the “knowledge economy” or in STEM fields. Entire economic development strategies have been created around developing high-growth tech companies. Every city has a handful (or more) of publicly funded tech incubators and accelerators, and states have invested billions of dollars in luring big tech/pharma or growing their own in research parks and incubators.

This is a nationwide phenomenon, with almost every state pursuing similar tech-based strategies in the hopes of creating “the next Silicon Valley.” Michigan developed the 21st Century Jobs Fund, successfully investing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into four technology sectors. Pennsylvania has the successful Ben Franklin Technology Partners program. Ohio calls their version the Ohio Third Frontier. Virtually every state has some statewide program with the words “innovate” or “technology” in the name that is an attempt to help tech businesses.

Depending how you measure returns, many of these initiatives have been successful and represent a good use of taxpayers resources. But, in an effort to be more targeted with limited resources, almost all of these programs have focused on technology only in very specific sectors. As a result, almost no state has a comprehensive statewide program to provide support to businesses that don’t fall within narrow and outdated definitions of “high growth.” And after three-plus decades, most of the “fly-over states” are still, well, getting flown over.

Economic developers invest in tech startups in the hopes of growing their own Facebook or Google. This makes intuitive sense. Those types of companies create abundant, high-paying jobs that in turn spin off lots of multiplier jobs in the local economy. They make an area “cool” and attractive to globally mobile talent, helping stop “brain drain” and attracting younger workers.

But here’s the rub: the local pizza place, hardware store, book shop, or taxi service is just as likely to become the next Domino’s, Home Depot, Amazon, or Uber as that little tech startup is to become the next Microsoft or Twitter. And, as they grow, these neighborhood-based businesses are far less likely to take their high-paying headquarters jobs to the coasts in search of venture capital and tech talent.

The founders of Google, Groupon, and Intralase all incubated their ideas and companies in Michigan, but none of them grew their companies there. Meanwhile Domino’s & Little Caesars (pizza), La-Z-Boy (furniture), Kellogg’s (cereal) and Whirlpool (appliances) all started and stayed, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The necessary lockdowns for COVID won’t last forever. In the coming months, vaccines will make people feel (and be) safe enough to resume a more “normal” set of consumer behavior. Smart entrepreneurs will take the lessons they learned this past year about how to use technology to grow their “traditional” businesses well beyond their pre-COVID levels. Policymakers should understand this opportunity, and provide capital and incentives for these “tech-enabled” businesses to scale up their use of technology. Whether they do or not will be the difference between a slower recovery that further exacerbates economic inequality or one that is quicker and does more to alleviate it.

Ned Staebler is a native Detroiter. A graduate of Detroit Public Schools and the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, Staebler has worked in the private and public sectors for 25 years.Ned Staebler is a native Detroiter. A graduate of Detroit Public Schools and the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, Staebler has worked in the private and public sectors for 25 years.

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This is what Facebook looks like in Australia after the social media giant pulled all news content

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaving The Merrion Hotel in Dublin after a meeting with politicians to discuss regulation of social media and harmful content in April 2019.

  • Facebook is blocking Australian users from seeing, sharing, and interacting with news on the site.
  • Moreover, all Facebook users worldwide aren’t able to see news shared by Australian news outlets.
  • Facebook now looks remarkably different for Australian users.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On Wednesday, Facebook removed critical functionality for its Australian users: the ability to see, share, and interact with news content on the social media platform.

The abrupt change, Facebook said, was due to a recently proposed law in Australia

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” a blog post from Facebook said. “With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

The reality of the change – for Facebook users in Australia, and for users around the world attempting to view or post news from Australian publications – is stark. 

The Facebook page for Australia’s most widely read newspaper, The Herald Sun, is completely wiped of content:

Facebook news in Australia

Similarly, if a Facebook user in Australia attempts to view any news organization, the content is blocked – whether that news is from an Australian publication or something else.

BBC News reporter Frances Mao highlighted an example from her own publication:

Moreover, whether you’re in Australia or anywhere else in the world, Facebook is blocking all users from sharing or interacting with news content from Australian publications.

When I attempted to share news from The Herald Sun on my personal Facebook page, the pop-up message below blocked me from posting:

Facebook news block in Australia

The move to block all Australian news content is considered the “nuclear option” in Facebook’s ongoing battle with the Australian government over proposed “News Media Bargaining Code” legislation. 

If passed, the legislation would require tech giants like Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for their content. Just hours before Facebook announced its plans for Australia, Google announced a landmark partnership with News Corp, which is owned by Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch, to pay “significant” sums for news content.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that Facebook’s “actions to unfriend” the country were “as arrogant as they were disappointing,” in a post on Facebook.

Beyond blocking news pages, Australian Facebook users began discovering a variety of non-news Facebook pages that were blocked – from essential health service pages to food banks. 

Facebook is reinstating some of those pages, but pointed blame at Australia’s proposed legislation for the error. “As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted,” a Facebook spokesperson told Insider. “However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted.”

Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@businessinsider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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Arizona Republican introduced a bill to let state legislature overturn results in a presidential election

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A man holds a sign reading “Q Sent me” as supporters of Donald Trump gather to protest outside the Maricopa County Election Department as counting continues after the US presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5, 2020.

  • An Arizona Republican introduced a bill that would let the state legislature decide presidential elections.
  • Rep. Shawnna Bolick’s legislation would allow lawmakers to overturn the secretary of state’s certification of an election result.
  • Bolick, who was reelected in November, promoted false claims about the 2020 election.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A top Arizona Republican who promoted a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2020 election has introduced a bill that would allow legislators override the certification of the state’s top elections official and effectively overturn the results of a future presidential election.

Rep. Shawnna Bolick, a Phoenix-area Republican, does not dispute her own reelection in November. But after Donald Trump lost his bid for another term, she sought to block electors from casting their votes for the winner, President Joe Biden, despite the election having already been certified by Arizona’s Secretary of State.

Bolick also promotedSharpiegate,” the false conspiracy theory that ballots were invalidated because poll workers gave Republican voters permanent markers instead of ballpoint pens.

Now the lawmaker, who chairs the Ways & Means Committee in the state house, is seeking to provide the legislature – narrowly controlled by Republicans – the formal power to revoke the certified results of a presidential election.

In particular, HB 2720 states that the legislature “may revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election.” Notably, the bill would not grant the lawmakers the power to overturn the result of elections for the legislature itself.

Laurie Roberts, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, noted the bill would “allow the legislature to ignore the state’s presidential election results and choose its own winner right up until the moment a president-elect steps up to the podium and puts his hand on the Bible.”

Ironically, the sponsor of the legislation is not herself known for strict adherence to electoral regulations.

In 2020, Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled that Bolick herself violated state law when she failed to disclose her actual home address in a filing with election officials.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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