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Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act Takes On Google With Antitrust Action

May 20, 2022

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), joined by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), has 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.

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.”

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