Years ago, John Oliver galvanized his Last Week Tonight viewers to join in the fight for net neutrality — instigating a flood of comments that broke down the Federal Communications Commission’s website in 2014. Last night, he turned his attention to a pair of upcoming tech antitrust bills.
During his Sunday night show, Oliver explained the ways large tech companies rule the internet. From Apple and Google taking huge cuts from app store sales to Amazon’s stranglehold on the online sellers’ market, Oliver outlined how the power these companies hold could stifle innovation and how lawmakers could shake up the industry.
“The problem with letting a few companies control whole sectors of our economy is that it limits what is possible by startups,” Oliver said. “An innovative app or website or startup may never get off the ground because it could be surcharged to death, buried in search results or ripped off completely.”
Specifically, Oliver noted two bills making their way through Congress aimed at reining in these anti-competitive behaviors, including the American Choice and Innovation Act (AICO) and the Open App Markets Act.
These measures would bar major tech companies from recommending their own services and requiring developers to exclusively sell their apps on a company’s app store. For example, AICO would ban Amazon from favoring its own private-label products over those from independent sellers. The Open App Markets Act would force Apple and Google to allow users to install third-party apps without using their app stores.
“These bills would crack the door open for innovation and budge the internet back towards what it was supposed to be from the start,” Oliver said.
While Republicans and Democrats support the bills, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has yet to call them up for a vote. Earlier this year, Schumer promised to bring them up for “early Summer,” but nothing has been scheduled as Congress prepares to vote on a bipartisan gun control bill.
Activists, like Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer and Yelp’s senior vice president of public policy Luther Lowe, were thrilled over Oliver’s Sunday segment. “Stop what you’re doing and watch this,” Lowe tweeted on Monday.