Big Tech And The Presidential Debate

To:      Interested Parties
From: Free & Fair Markets Initiative
RE:     Big Tech And The Presidential Debate


The economy has now emerged as the central issue to voters heading into the final stretch of the election, adding even more urgency to the question of how to rein in Big Tech companies, whose power and influence impacts nearly every aspect of our economic system.[1] How President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden answer this question — and the policy positions they espouse — could shape the rules of the road for decades to come.

Big Tech companies and their efforts to unfairly tilt the playing field in their favor have become a growing target for lawmakers across both sides of the political aisle.[2] And while both Biden and Trump have recognized the dangers of Big Tech broadly while on the campaign trail, Amazon, given its unique position in the American economy, has become an issue of particular importance. For instance, Biden has underscored the need for Amazon to “start paying their taxes,”[3] while Trump has repeatedly criticized the company for straining the United States Postal Service, noting how the federal government is “losing a fortune” to Amazon.[4]

Given Amazon’s massive growth in recent years, the company now touches nearly every corner of our economy, causing serious concerns for everyday Americans across any number of issues — from antitrust to consumer protection and data privacy. And the debate is an important opportunity for the candidates to explain their positions to the public on Amazon and detail their plans to restore balance to the American economy if elected.

Moderator Chris Wallace should ask the candidates the following key questions about how they will address a wide range of concerns surrounding the e-commerce giant:

  • Amazon has received billions of dollars in lucrative state and local economic development subsidies in recent years.[5] These tax breaks – often negotiated behind closed doors with little transparency – have been awarded to the company even as it has continued to reach record profits.[6] How will you promote investment in small businesses and brick-and-mortar retailers who are desperately in need of help — and even more so amid the pandemic — and not one of the richest companies in the country?
  • Attorneys general across the nation have partnered with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon’s market dominance.[7] There is now an urgent need to adapt our nation’s antitrust laws so that they work for the 21st century economy and prevent the largest tech companies from dominating. How will your administration seek to modernize antitrust policy to ensure a fairer marketplace for all competitors?
  • Investigations have unearthed that Amazon routinely pushes its own private-label products over those of sellers, raising serious concerns about the how the company is stifling competition on its marketplace.[8] Would your administration seek to ensure that companies like Amazon are held accountable for these anticompetitive practices in order to promote greater competition in the e-commerce marketplace?
  • Amazon’s annual Prime Day is approaching in October, raising renewed concerns about the treatment of its workers who have sounded alarms about the “inhumane conditions” and toll that this takes on its workforce.[9] What policies will you implement to protect workers at Amazon fulfillment centers and other distribution facilities given its role as one of the nation’s largest employers?
  • From its always-listening Alexa and Echo products to new developments in smart home devices, Amazon has deeply embedded itself in the homes of more Americans.[10] However, privacy watchdogs have warned about the dangers of the company have created an inescapable environment of surveillance. What role should the federal government have in the protection of privacy?

[1] Montanaro, Domenico. Poll: Climate Becomes Top Priority For Democrats; Trump Struggles On Race, COVID-19. NPR. September 19, 2020.

[2] The House Committee on the Judiciary. Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. July 29, 2020.

[3] Higgins, Tucker and Palmer, Annie. CNBC. ‘I think Amazon should start paying their taxes,’ Joe Biden says. May 22, 2020.

[4] Kaplan, Talia. Fox News. Trump pushes back on Dem claims he’s trying to ‘sabotage’ the election by ‘manipulating’ Postal Service. August 17, 2020.

[5] Good Jobs First. Amazon Tracker.

[6] Faulkner, Cameron. The Verge. Amazon doubled its profit during a pandemic. July 30, 2020.

[7] Soper, Spencer. Bloomberg News. Amazon’s Market Power to Be Investigated by New York AG. August 3, 2020.

[8] Dudley, Renee. ProPublica. Amazon’s New Competitive Advantage: Putting Its Own Products First. June 6, 2020.

[9] Dzieza, Josh. The Verge. ‘Beat The Machine’: Amazon Warehouse Workers Strike To Protest Inhumane Conditions. July 16, 2019.

[10] Nickelsburg, Monica. GeekWire. What we learned about the antitrust case against Amazon from Jeff Bezos’ time in the Congressional hot seat. July 29, 2020.

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