Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), joined by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), introduced the Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act. The bill would restore and protect competition in digital advertising by eliminating conflicts of interest that have allowed the leading platforms in the market to manipulate ad auctions and impose monopoly rents on a broad swath of the American economy. The bill has also been endorsed by:
Heritage Action for America
American Principles Project
Citizens for Renewing America
Internet Accountability Project
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Bull Moose Project
Clare Morrell, Ethics & Public Policy Center Big Tech Project
Digital Progress Institute
American Economic Liberties Project
Quotes from the bill’s original sponsors and endorsers are below.
Senator Lee said, “Digital advertising is the lifeblood of the internet economy. It supports most of the free content and services Americans have come to rely upon, including essential local journalism, and it allows businesses of every size to reach their customers quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, online advertising is also suffering under the thumb of trillion-dollar tech companies.
“Companies like Google and Facebook have been able to exploit their unprecedented troves of detailed user data to obtain vice grip-like control over digital advertising, amassing power on every side of the market and using it to block competition and take advantage of their customers. The conflicts of interest are so glaring that one Google employee described Google’s ad business as being like ‘if Goldman or Citibank owned the NYSE.’
“This lack of competition in digital advertising means that monopoly rents are being imposed upon every website that is ad-supported and every company—small, medium, or large—that relies on internet advertising to grow its business. It is essentially a tax on thousands of American businesses, and thus a tax on millions of American consumers.
“While online advertising is essential to nearly every business, this broken system has been the primary driver of growth for the tech companies that have failed us in so many other ways: by undermining our privacy, censoring our speech, and exploiting our children.
“That is why I have introduced this bill, and why I believe it is the first step towards liberating the internet—and therefore much of the 21st century economy—from the grip of Big Tech monopolists.”
Senator Cruz said, “Free markets require competition, and America has a long history of fighting monopolies in order to guarantee that healthy competition delivers the best results, products, and services for the American people. The internet should be no different. I’m proud to work in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues, Mike Lee, Amy Klobuchar, and Richard Blumenthal, to guarantee customer protections in digital advertising.”
Senator Klobuchar said, “For too long, Google and Facebook have dominated the digital advertising marketplace at the expense of advertisers, publishers, and consumers. It is past time for a transparent ad technology industry where the best interests of customers are prioritized and companies of all sizes are able to compete. This legislation will put rules in place to do just that, restoring and protecting competition in digital advertising to create a more even playing field that will promote fairness and innovation moving forward.”
Senator Blumenthal said, “Our bipartisan bill would guard against immense conflicts of interest in today’s digital advertising market. Big Tech claims that it simply presides over an open and free market, but in a truly free market the same party can’t represent the seller, the buyer, make the rules, and conduct the auction. And that is unacceptable in a free enterprise system – it hurts consumers and it hurts competition.”
Jon Schweppe, Policy Director at the American Principles Project said, “Republicans are increasingly recognizing the threat posed by Big Tech's concentrated corporate power. Senator Mike Lee in particular has been an important leader on the issue of antitrust enforcement. His Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act is well thought-out and addresses rampant anti-competitive behavior in the online ads market. American Principles Project is proud to endorse this bill, and we encourage Republicans to continue to embrace an all-of-the-above approach to reining in Big Tech.”
“The basic idea of this bill is simple: no one can serve two masters,” said Matt Stoller, Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project. “As the buyer, seller, broker, and exchange, Google maintains pervasive conflicts of interest in online advertising that it uses to manipulate markets. By breaking up Google’s third party ad tech business and requiring advertising intermediaries to disclose the prices and quality of the advertising they are buying and selling, this bill will finally allow honest price discovery in markets for online advertising.”
“No one would accept Goldman Sachs running the New York Stock Exchange, representing buyers of stock, and sellers of stock at the same time, just as no one would accept a lawyer representing both sides in a trial. Neither should Congress let corporations run all sides of a transaction in online ad markets,”Stoller continued.
Wade Miller, Executive Director at Citizens for Renewing America said, “The days of Big Tech getting away with gaming the digital advertising system are over. Senator Mike Lee's ‘Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act’ will end the market manipulation and anticompetitive practices of some of the biggest companies in tech. Sen. Lee has shown Congress how to break-up big tech the right way. We commend his efforts and urge Congress to stop talking and start legislating.”
Charlotte Slaiman, Competition Policy Director at Public Knowledge, said, “The lack of competition in online advertising technology hurts not just advertisers and publishers but also consumers who pay more for products and see lower quality news and other content online. Right now, advertising is the primary business model for much of the internet. It’s essential that online advertising be an open ecosystem with dynamic and fair competition. The Competition and Transparency in Online Advertising Act takes a remarkable step towards that ideal by breaking up the largest ad tech giants and creating common-sense rules of the road. The Competition and Transparency in Online Advertising Act from Senators Lee and Klobuchar can address gatekeeper power in ad tech and make this market function better for consumers.”
Mike Davis of the Internet Accountability Project said, “For many years now, monopolist control from Facebook and Google over the ad tech market has hurt small businesses, slowed innovation and stifled competition. Passing this bill into law would help put an end to the anticompetitive practices these Big Tech monopolists rely on for their undue trillions in market control. The Internet Accountability Project thanks Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz for their leadership and dedication to the free market and antitrust principles that are critical to restoring a fair and well functioning tech economy that encourages innovation and success.”
Joel Thayer, President of the Digital Progress Institute, said, “Large tech platforms have operated under complete opacity, which has allowed them to engage in anticompetitive behavior within the digital ad market. Senator Lee’s Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act takes this issue head on by applying a meaningful and targeted framework that will not only help shed light on these practices that detrimentally harm competition in the digital ad space, but will also help open doors for smaller players by evening the odds. The Digital Progress Institute is proud to endorse this important piece of legislation.”
Aiden Buzzetti, President of the Bull Moose Project, said, “The Bull Moose Project enthusiastically supports the CDTA. This is a huge step in leveling the playing field of digital advertising. For too long we have seen companies dominate this field. Senator Lee should be commended for this legislation. We hope all Republicans will support this bill.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stated, “We strongly support this legislation as a complement to our litigation efforts. Both approaches are necessary to address Google's abuses and restore competition to the ad tech market.”