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The Washington Post this morning reports that "a bipartisan group of senators plans to introduce a bill that they say would prevent tech platforms from using their power to disadvantage smaller rivals, signaling growing momentum in Congress to rein in Silicon Valley giants.

"Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, and Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that they will introduce legislation early next week making it illegal for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google to engage in “self-preferencing,“ the tech giants’ practice of giving their own products and services a boost over those of rivals on their platforms.

"The bill would effectively outlaw an array of behaviors that lawmakers describe as anticompetitive, like Amazon sucking up data from sellers on its platform to copy the products in-house or Google prioritizing its own services over rivals’ in search results."

Meanwhile, Axios reports that the Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey), chairman of the House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee, has introduced a new bill that would, under certain circumstances, remove protections - commonly referred to as Section 230 provisions - currently available to online platforms.  Those protections prevent platforms from being sued for content posted by users, but the Justice Against Malicious Algorithms Act would remove those protections if "they knowingly or recklessly use a personalized recommendation algorithm," or "the algorithm recommends content that materially contributes to physical or severe emotional injury."

The story notes that "the bill is the latest attempt to tweak tech's shield after mounting frustrations from both Democrats and Republicans about Facebook, YouTube and Twitter's content moderation practices."

KC's View:

It remains to be seen how much this legislation actually gets passed, since the bills' introduction almost certainly will be greeted by an influx of dollars and lobbyists dedicated to preventing them from become law.

I like the basics of the House bill, because I think that Section 230 needs repeal or revision, but I still have questions about the Senate bill.

Self-preferencing may be more effective and obvious online, but that's exactly what happens in many retail stores, where private label products can be given preferential treatment compared to - and sometimes even to the exclusion of - national brands.  These same retailers often make decisions about what own-label products to offer based on sales numbers generated by brands.

I think the intentions may be good, but the Senate efforts may reflect a lack of understanding about how retail works.