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Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Mount Laurel).

Opinion: Overreaching big tech regulations would harm small businesses & consumers

By Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, August 17 2021 2:52 pm

OPINION

Technology has become a large part of our personal and work lives. As such, Congress is right to look at sensible regulations for the technology sector that promotes competition and protects consumers. However regulations must be done right and can be done without sacrificing access to the critical applications and platforms which so many depend on daily.

The importance of technology needs grew during the pandemic, as in-person activities were severely curtailed or halted altogether, work and personal lives shifted online. Millions of businesses, facing dire circumstances, were able to survive through the offering of digital services and accessing the online marketplace. Increased digitalization is likely a lasting feature of the pandemic and it is important to ensure that businesses have continued access to the digital tools critical to their operations.

However, legislation sponsored by Rep. Ciclline (HR 3816) and Rep. Jayapal (HR 3825) is poised to disrupt access to those digital tools at a perilous time in our economic recovery as COVID cases are on the rise. These measures would make dramatic changes to major tech platforms and prevent them from offering popular services that people today receive for free or low cost while also restricting their ability to provide information and tools within their services.

The negative impacts should these concepts become law would be far reaching. Free shipping with Amazon Prime could disappear and apps like Google Maps, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, iMessage, and FaceTime will be harder, and very likely, more expensive to access. These changes are not in the best interest of consumers and small businesses.

The laudable theory of leveling the playing field by prohibiting platforms from giving their own products and services advantages is misguided. In practice, this would mean that Amazon would be banned from providing free two-day shipping on its own Prime products which would hurt small businesses that rely on free shipping to keep costs down. Google search results could no longer display shopping options and would be prevented from displaying Google Maps or local business reviews because these would all be viewed as an unfair advantage.

The want to harness big tech would instead have a harmful impact on small businesses, especially as they have worked so hard to recover from the pandemic and are progressing towards recovery. Congress must find a way to take regulatory steps forward in the area of tech regulation without burdening consumers and small businesses with higher costs, fees and eliminating critical services that have become a necessity.

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, Democrat of Mount Laurel, is the Assembly Deputy Majority Leader.

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