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Big Tech isn’t hurting American competition. Big Tech is what could pull us out of this recession – The Dallas Morning News


In July, the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, led by Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, brought the four chief executives of America’s largest tech companies before his committee. The CEOs of Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple appeared together in front of a congressional panel, and the hearing quickly devolved, with the misleading accusations and grandstanding we have come to expect. One could be cynical, perhaps a little sad, except for the fact that Congress is considering monumental actions against these four companies.

Clearly today, a most substantial challenge resides across the Pacific: China. We can no longer ignore that Beijing is our greatest geopolitical threat. The Chinese Communist Party has invested heavily in artificial intelligence, both for the Chinese economy and for military purposes. The Chinese have upped the technological arms race. Some observers even believe the U.S. and the rest of the Western world are playing catch up.

This assessment of our technological standing in the world should be of deep concern to every American. In a 2019 speech, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said, “Advances in AI have the potential to change the character of warfare for generations to come. Whichever nation harnesses AI first will have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for many, many years. We have got to get there first.”

Yes, we must. This can be achieved by working alongside the very companies that Washington is considering breaking up. In America, our private sector companies drive innovation. It will serve no one, especially the U.S. interest in the most pressing race of our time, to dissolve companies like Google, which is keeping us in the AI fight against our communist rivals.

Our thinking must be broad, and we must consider past impacts of decisions involving antitrust allegations. Focused on the future, we must not fall back on archaic antitrust laws designed to regulate the railroad barons of the past.

As an example, in Washington, D.C., during the 1990s, Microsoft was aggressively pursued for violating federal antitrust laws under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. At issue was Microsoft’s Windows operating system, built with their Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft eventually settled with the Department of Justice, but the fallout from these shortsighted investigations severely hampered Microsoft and skewed the market toward its competitors. Contrary to what regulators believed, competitors were already vigorously innovating and creating the next generation software and online tools, which is why Apple and Google eventually surpassed Microsoft in the tech space. Microsoft wasn’t thwarting competition — competition was already alive and well.

Another consideration lawmakers must take into account is how the antitrust actions against these companies would impact our already wounded economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have had to shift their operations online to be sustainable, and Big Tech has stepped up to help. In fact, the increase in sales tax revenue from e-commerce has been crucial to maintaining the health of the Texas economy. Disrupting the access and affordability of technology for the business community should carefully scrutinized.

Congress should be fully aware of what may be a reckless path. These are leading, American-made companies. Antitrust litigation against our technology companies could be shortsighted and misguided, just as was when the government pursued Microsoft in previous years. The companies are critical to our national security, our economy and our future prosperity.

Tom Loeffler is a former U.S. representative and former chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents.

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