California is finally starting to recover from COVID-19, but it’s clear the pandemic isn’t ending anytime soon. Lawmakers’ work continues to focus on helping small businesses stay afloat by addressing the inequities exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19. However, some lawmakers have decided to prioritize a package of technology antitrust bills that represent a complete departure from the issues that matter most to Californians. These bills directly target the very companies that have kept our economy afloat.
Tech companies have positioned California as a global leader in innovation, and some worry that these latest proposals could disrupt the tech ecosystem we’ve worked so hard to create. These proposals go beyond and could have far-reaching impacts on the small businesses that drive our local and national economy.
Throughout the pandemic, digital technology programs developed by some of our state’s largest employers helped small businesses pivot, survive and become deeply involved in the everyday lives of businesses and consumers. Putting these critical programs and tools at risk now could be catastrophic for those still struggling to survive.
The American Innovation and Online Choice Act (S.2992) targets big tech companies for potential antitrust and consumer choice violations. This bill prohibits certain large online platforms from engaging in specified acts, including giving preference to their products on the platform, unfairly limiting the availability on the platform of competing products from another business, or discriminating in the application or application of terms of the platform. service between users with similar locations. Unfortunately, the bill does not take into account the countless small businesses that use online platforms for their survival.
Examples of this legislation’s impact can be seen from small businesses such as Oh Comadre Candles, a Latin handmade candle company. Marcella Gomez started the company as a form of self-therapy from her nursing job in 2016 and turned it into her full-time business. Marcella’s products have been featured on Buzzfeed, PopSugar, Remezcla, Mitu, Hello Giggles, Yahoo UK, Perolike, Trend talk Show, WGN Radio (Frank Fontana Show) and Jack Daniel’s Turno 7 showcase. She uses Facebook and Instagram to reach her customers online, where she estimates 95% – 98% of all her business originates. Marcella’s small business exists in the online marketplace, the passage of these antitrust technology legislation will disrupt her business and thousands of other small businesses owned by women and people of color.
Lawmakers on the Hill are pushing this package of bills, which would prevent major tech platforms from offering popular services that almost everyone can currently use for free, limiting the ability of major platforms to provide critical information and tools within their services. Customers may lose access to services such as Messenger, Find my iPhone and Google Maps.
Oh Comadre Candles relies on social media as a way to advertise and connect with its core clientele—Marcella’s targets based on Latino interests and existing audiences and customers. Part of her social media strategy includes using direct messages, tagged posts and stories to connect with her strong audience base. These free services that tech companies have provided have allowed Oh Comadre Candles to organically grow to 76,000 followers on Instagram. The loss of service would prevent businesses like Marcellas from continuing to market their products to their existing clientele.
If these bills pass without regard for the small businesses that rely on them, it could result in businesses losing the opportunity to promote themselves. Consumers will lose the ability to access the products and services they need when they need them. Such conveniences would disappear and small businesses would lose essential tools. We need to support small businesses to thrive and thrive in this technology-driven ecosystem. We call on lawmakers to enact policies that help — not hinder — small businesses owned by women and people of color.
Maria S. Salinas is president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.