Opinion: Paxton’s antitrust probe into ‘big tech’ hurts businesses, consumers
Innovation is fast-paced — required to keep up with the constantly changing and impatient desires of consumers. The dedication and investment in responding to consumer demands ultimately determine an innovator’s success.
If you get too good at innovating, employ too many people, respond too quickly to changing market conditions and adapt at a rate that outpaces your competition, you can expect to hear complaints. This is what lies at the heart of the Texas investigation and imminent antitrust lawsuits against “big tech” companies, and it is what should concern innovators and entrepreneurs alike.
A recent commentary by former federal prosecutor Theodore Greenberg called for scuttling e-commerce platforms, including Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook, by citing the 1990 court-ordered breakup of Microsoft.
But the tech landscape has changed so dramatically over the 30 years since the Microsoft decision that suggesting it be used as a guide for taking action is misguided and anachronistic. Innovation has moved so quickly. Unfortunately, rather than craft smart legislation or regulations to ensure consumer choice and rights are protected, our leaders have decided to use their offices to bully technology companies. These are the very same technology platforms that have been vital to preserving small business activity during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be crucial to our economic recovery.
At a time when we should be empowering retailers, restaurants, service providers and small businesses by ensuring their access to digital tools, Attorney General Ken Paxton is preparing to kick the legs out from under the entire structure.
Our right-wing attorney general — who has been very busy during the pandemic protecting firearm sales, doing favors for his wealthy friends and arguing about the use of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election — believes that tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have stacked the deck against the free expression of conservative positions to curry favor with left-wing ideologues. In a fundraising email last fall, Paxton said Texans “are put at risk” by Google “whose executives clearly display anti-conservative and anti-Republican bias, subtly controlling what Americans see when they search for information about national political issues.” The attorney general’s accusation is simply untrue. As has been explained countless times, Google is not politically biased and works hard to ensure that all political viewpoints are represented.
And so, we have the very definition of political opportunism. Paxton can simply attribute his interest in breaking up big technology companies to “protecting the consumer,” but the real reason is to fire up his political base. In the midst of a pandemic, he has found plenty of room for politics and scoring cheap headlines, instead of doing his job. The attorney general’s approach is out of step with the realities of the 2020 technology landscape, as well as the true needs of the businesses and consumers we’re counting on to help us restart the Texas economy.
Gunst is CEO of the Austin Technology Council, the oldest and largest tech industry organization in Central Texas.