The AMERICA Act: Lee Introduces Bill to Protect Digital Advertising Competition
March 30, 2023
WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), joined by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), JD Vance (R-OH), and John Kennedy (R-LA), introduced the Advertising Middlemen Endangering Rigorous Internet Competition Accountability (AMERICA) 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.
Of the bill, Sen. 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.”
Of the bill, Sen. 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.”
Of the bill, Sen. Blumenthal said, “Google, Facebook, and other online advertising giants take advantage of their market power to control rival publishers, advertisers, and brokers. Extracting exorbitant fees and favoring their own services, these monopolists hurt consumers, competition, and local journalism. Our legislation takes important steps to prevent marketplace abuse and allow those harmed to seek legal recourse. It’s time to ensure an even playing field in our digital advertising landscape.”
Of the bill, Sen. Rubio said, “Small businesses rely on digital advertising, but industry consolidation and conflicts of interest are tilting the scales against them. It is time to restore competition, transparency, and fairness into the digital ad space.”
Of the bill, Sen. Kennedy said, “Big Tech does not have the right to stack the deck in its favor at the expense of competition. I’m supporting the AMERICA Act to hold Big Tech accountable for anti-competitive behavior and limit its power to manipulate ads that get pushed to unsuspecting consumers.”
Of the bill, Sen. Graham said, “Our bill restores competition and fairness in the digital advertising industry, passing on the benefits to consumers. A small group of dominant digital platforms are playing both sides and steamrolling any competition in advertising online. By ending the monopoly held by these larger platforms, we will promote free competition and ultimately I believe, save money for small businesses and consumers alike.”
Of the bill, Sen. Vance said, “It is high time for Congress to free our digital economy from the stranglehold of Big Tech. A system that allows large companies to control all sides of the digital advertising market has no place in the American economy. I’m proud to join this effort to restore competition and rein in the Big Tech companies.”
Of the bill, Rep. Ken Buck said, "Digital advertising is a key component in the digital economy. Today, Google and Facebook continue to exploit an unprecedented monopoly over digital advertising that chokes off competition and controls every side of the marketplace. This vital piece of legislation will restore competition in the digital ad tech marketplace and put an end to the system Big Tech monopolies have exploited for years."
Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next said, “The digital advertising marketplace operates like a financial marketplace with brokers representing buyers and sellers. But, unlike financial markets, there are no requirements for transparency and there are no rules to avoid conflicts of interest and insider trading. We support the AMERICA Act because it will reinforce the basic free market tenets of competition and transparency in digital advertising, which fuels the online content we all read and love and are a necessity for all sorts of businesses – small and large – to efficiently reach consumers.”
Mike Davis, Founder and President of the Internet Accountability Project, said, “The AMERICA Act will break up Google’s online advertising monopoly. This bill from Senator Mike Lee is a silver bullet in the battle to dismantle Big Tech. Senate and House leadership must consider this legislation if they’re serious about combating the threat Big Tech poses to our online freedoms, economic innovation, and small business prosperity. Republicans like Mike Lee are leading on this issue–his colleagues in Congress who claim to be conservative warriors against Big Tech must join him.”
Sen. Lee introduced similar legislation—The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act—in the 117th Congress with support from the following:
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
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.”
Matt Stoller, Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project, said, “The basic idea of this bill is simple: no one can serve two masters,” “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.”
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 said, “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.”
For a one-pager, click HERE.
For full bill text, click HERE.