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Small Businesses Defend Google and Amazon in Strange Letters to Editors

As Capitol Hill tries to rein in Big Tech, a number of local business owners are slamming proposed antitrust legislation in letters to editors of local newspapers across the US — and they appear to be working on talking points that are strikingly similar to each other.

At least half a dozen articles blasting bipartisan legislation known as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would ban platforms from giving their own products an edge in search results, have surfaced in small state publications Virginia to Arkansas to new York.

Samuel Pacheco, who runs AI Rides, a personal electric vehicle repair service in the Bronx, focused on the antitrust attack in his letters, which were published by various Bronx newspapers. the Riverdale Press and the Bronx Times.

“Passing the American Choice and Innovation Online Act in Congress will reverse everything I’ve worked hard to build,” Pacheco wrote in both letters, adding that he gets countless customers from Google.

Reached by The Post, Pacheco acknowledged that he had seen a template for writing the letter and also a sample letter that someone else had written – but realized the language was entirely his own. He said he was not paid for the play and chose to write it because he was “aligned” with the purpose.

When asked if he had written any other letters to the editor, Pacheco said he “didn’t remember.” When asked who got him to write the articles, he said a “friend,” but was reluctant to share the friend’s name or if that person was affiliated with a tech company.

The letters are particularly focused on Delaware, where President Biden spends many weekends and is well known to brood over something local newspapers. Indeed, on April 12, three letters about the legislation appeared in local Delaware publications.

The letters follow the same pattern: a small business owner hit by the pandemic fears upcoming antitrust legislation will “cut off” access to “digital tools” that are “critical” to his company’s future.

Jami Jackson, the owner of gingham+grace, wrote in a Cape Gazette Writing that the legislation will “disrupt access to these digital tools at a perilous time in our economic recovery when public health restrictions could re-emerge… could disrupt Facebook Live, which is critical to my business.”

Stephanie Preece, who runs the Ignite Fitness Kickboxing exercise class, wrote Bay-to-Bay News“While these tech services have proven critical to small businesses across the country, Congress is attempting to implement AICOA, which could disrupt access to the digital tools at a time of our economic recovery.”

still another article in Cape Gazette Nicole Bailey Ashton, who runs swimming pool construction company Ashton Pools, argued: “It’s important to ensure businesses continue to have access to the digital tools that are critical to their operations…. the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992/HR 3816) … will disrupt access to these digital tools at a perilous time in our economic recovery.”

A representative for Ashton, contacted by The Post on Tuesday, said: “Not interested. Thank you.” when asked to comment.

Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Klobuchar is sponsoring a bill that will crack down on Big Tech.
Getty Images

Jackson and Preece did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Antitrust sources told the Post this is a classic example of companies attempting to wage astroturf wars — and big tech is once again following a well-worn but often ineffective playbook.

“This is a tactic tech companies keep using, but these letters don’t really impact the policy debate,” Garrett Ventry, former chief of staff to Congressman Ken Buck, told The Post.

“Big tech companies don’t have any real foundation — nobody supports them organically. If you defend them, you’re probably taking money from them,” adds Ventry.

“They’re stepping on themselves: it’s either clumsy, or they’re just hammering home important messages that they’ve tested with research firms,” ​​adds another antitrust insider. “It suggests this is not a well-coordinated effort; They are using a blunt instrumental approach to show the level of opposition they are generating.”

Reports surfaced last month that Facebook parent company Meta hired a lobbying firm to smear TikTok’s reputation for its ties to China.

The group helped place op-eds and letters to the editor in local newspapers like the Denver Post and the Des Moines Register, and raised concerns that China “deliberately collects behavioral data on our children,” according to the report.

Meta, Amazon and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment as to whether they were involved in the letters challenging America’s Innovation and Choice Online Act. Apple declined to comment.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook have both personally campaigned against the bill.

grassy
Sen. Grassley is co-sponsoring a bill cracking down on tech companies.
Getty Images

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act — the bill in question — appears to be the most likely attempt by Congress to achieve antitrust reform. The bill, which made it through the House of Representatives and passed the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support, would prevent platforms from “self-favoring” their content.

For example, Amazon would no longer be able to promote its own content to third-parties on its site — a move that supporters say would help smaller businesses compete against Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce giant.

While small business opponents of the bill say the legislation could potentially reduce their internet traffic; Proponents say there is no reason to believe the law would disadvantage small businesses in any way.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said it was “the first major technology competition bill to move forward in the Senate since the dawn of the internet.” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is also a co-sponsor.

“People care about issues like censorship and disinformation — there’s organic reasons people are upset about big tech,” Ventry said. “But nobody wants to defend Tim Cook organically.”

https://nypost.com/2022/04/27/small-businesses-defend-google-amazon-in-odd-letters-to-editors/ Small Businesses Defend Google and Amazon in Strange Letters to Editors

DUSTIN JONES

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