Big tech companies have spared no expense in gobbling up rivals in recent years, even as lawmakers craft landmark antitrust legislation designed to curb their most anti-competitive impulses.
It’s according to a new report The Tech Oversight project shared exclusively with Gizmodo, which claims that Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, and Apple have spent at least US$32 billion ($44) on acquisitions since 2019. While that number seems high, it’s almost certainly good less than the actual amount. tech companies have been spending, as financial details surrounding large chunks of acquisitions since 2019 remain unknown to the public. The findings come as House and Senate lawmakers are desperately trying to advance a vote on two key antitrust pieces of legislation before the November 2022 midterms.
In the report, The Oversight Project accused major tech companies of using their dominant presence to “capture or kill competitors in the market.” These tactics, according to the report, are all the more reason for lawmakers to support the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act, two bills backed by a wide range of tech critics and utterly scorned by Big Business. Tech.
Amazon stood out among its tech peers in the report, reportedly spending at least US$16 billion ($22) on 19 acquisitions over the past three years. Google owner Alphabet was lagging behind, spending at least $11.87 billion ($16 billion) to acquire 25 companies. Meta and Apple, on the other hand, spent significantly less, with the report estimating that the two invested $2.51 billion(3) billion and $1.62 billion(2) billion, respectively, in acquisitions. Four of 19, or about 20%, of the businesses Apple acquired involved virtual or augmented reality, a potential sign that it is stepping up its efforts to deliver a long-popular VR headset.
“To curb Big Tech’s most predatory practices, passing antitrust legislation is a realistic first step we must take,” Tech Oversight project executive director Sacha Haworth said in a statement. “We need Senate Majority Leader Schumer to deliver on his promise and put the package to a vote, so we can also advance the long list of pieces of legislation needed to protect businesses, families, children. and corporate teenagers who abused and profited from their fees.’
Big Tech’s audacious acquisition plan has unfolded most brazenly in recent months via one company in particular: Amazon. In less than three monthsAmazon has announced its intention to to acquire janitorial healthcare provider OneMedical, maker of Roomba iRobot and warehouse robotics company Cloostermans. Although Amazon did not disclose Cloostermans’ financial terms, the combined OneMedical and iRobot deals are worth $5.6 billion.
“In the post-Roe world, the rise in healthcare and surveillance acquisitions is frankly disgusting and paints a dystopian picture of what digital competition and privacy will look like if Big Tech goes unchecked,” Haworth said. “We just need to do more than sit idly by for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon to self-regulate – they never will.”
Of course, corporate buyouts are neither new nor necessarily remarkable. In the case of Big Tech, however, the Watch Project report claims that the companies have uniquely used their market dominance and deep pockets to “create uneven playing fields that stifle innovation, bleed small businesses and limit consumer choice.
Similarly, U.S. regulators, such as the Justice Department’s assistant attorney and have noted Big Tech Review Jonathan Kanter expressed concern that some of the types of acquisitions planned in the oversight project could stifle competition.
“When a merger combines competitors, it increases the risk of oligopoly behavior,” Kanter said. said earlier this week at the Georgetown Antitrust Law Symposium. “Like concerted action, oligopoly behavior exacerbated by mergers deprives the market of independent decision-making centers and warrants intervention.”
Proponents of antitrust legislation creeping into Congress, like The Tech Oversight Project, believe that passing it could pose significant hurdles to slowing the race against big tech companies. These efforts to tighten tech regulation, according to a growing variety of polls, enjoy broad bipartisan support, something as common as sightings of Bigfoot in 2022 in America.
Concrete example, a morning consultation in February investigation found that 67% of American adults believe that the benefits offered by big tech companies do not outweigh the dangers posed by their increased power. Before that, another survey published by Vox and the left-leaning firm Data for Progress found that 59% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans said Big Tech’s economic power presents a “problem” for the US economy. Additionally, some 55% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans said they support breaking up Big Tech.
So what about those votes…
Yet despite all this apparent support, the very bills aimed at blocking the monopolistic impulses of tech are arguably a far cry from becoming law than they were nine months ago. Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer virtually guaranteed that the senator hold a vote on the American Innovation and Choice Online Act over the summer. Then Schumer suddenly went silent on the subject, much to the chagrin contrariety of antitrust activists across the country. More than a dozen progressive parliamentary deputies wrote a letter to Schumer in July, urging him to hold a vote on the bills before a month-long recess in August, but those calls went unanswered. Recent reports suggest that Schumer overestimated the number of votes in the bag and ultimately decided to sit on the bill.
At least part of the explanation for the slowing momentum stems from the mind-boggling amount of financial resources Big Tech has invested in killing the bills. Since 2021, the big four tech companies have reportedly spent a gargantuan $95 million ($132) on lobbying according a recent Bloomberg analysis. Amazon, which arguably has the most to lose if the bills under consideration pass, would have spent a record $4.98 million ($7 million) in lobbying in the second quarter alone.
The clock is turning. If the bills still don’t pass by November’s midterms, they may never pass at all, lawmakers and progressive advocates say.
“The closer you get to the midpoints, the less likely I think Republican members of Congress will be to hand bipartisan victories to Joe Biden, which underscores the urgency to do so as soon as possible,” the co-founder said. of Accountable Tech, Jesse Lehrich, in a June. CNBC interview. “There is a very real but narrow window for these two bills.”
And while some reports suggest that Schumer is interested in bringing these bills to a vote in the coming weeks, with lawmakers speaking in a recent Time report say they have all but given up on what is really happening. Sources speaking in this article alleged that Schumer was deliberately delaying the bill to avoid making his supporters the sources of Big Tech attacks during their re-election bids, or simply burying the bill further. low on Democratic voting priorities. Advocates like Fight for the Future executive director Evan Greer don’t believe it.
“Let’s be clear on one thing: this is not about a ‘busy legislative calendar’ or ‘competing priorities’ or ‘not having the votes,'” Greer said in a statement this week. “This is corruption, plain and simple, and the sickening influence of Big Tech money in DC.”
You can read the full report below:
Editor’s note: The release dates in this article are based in the US, but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.