Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview Wednesday that her legislation would break up Apple and Google app store duopoly, which could still pass during Congress’s lame-duck session.
Blackburn spoke to Breitbart News as Apple reportedly was threatening to remove Twitter from the iPhone Apple Store. Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly described the report as a “misunderstanding,” however, the threat still raises the question of how much power Apple and Google have over the internet ecosystem through their app stores.
In response to the spat between Musk and Cook, Blackburn said Apple and Google have a “stranglehold” over companies, and the two Silicon Valley giants have “used their leverage to bully businesses.” She said her legislation, the Open App Markets Act would “give consumers, not Tim Cook, the choice over whether they can use Twitter.”
My Open App Markets Act would give consumers, not Tim Cook, the choice over whether they can use Twitter.
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) November 28, 2022
In short, the legislation would open access to third-party app stores, as Apple prevents this from happening on their devices, protect the “sideloading” of apps onto phones, and among other things, give consumers more control over their devices.
The bill would, according to Congress.gov, also:
An app is a software application or electronic service that may be run or directed by a user on a computer or mobile device. An app store is a publicly available website, software application, or other electronic service that distributes apps from third-party developers to users.
The bill prohibits a covered company from (1) requiring developers to use an in-app payment system owned or controlled by the company as a condition of distribution or accessibility, (2) requiring that pricing or conditions of sale be equal to or more favorable on its app store than another app store, or (3) taking punitive action against a developer for using or offering different pricing terms or conditions of sale through another in-app payment system or on another app store.
A covered company may not interfere with legitimate business communications between developers and users, use non-public business information from a third-party app to compete with the app, or unreasonably prefer or rank its own apps (or those of its business partners) over other apps.
The bill provides for enforcement of its provisions by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, as well as through suits brought by developers that are injured by reason of anything prohibited by this bill.
The legislation has bipartisan backing. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have cosponsored the bill. The legislation has 14 cosponsors and the bill was advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously.
As Congress approaches its lame-duck session, Blackburn said the bill could still go through Congress.
What this would do is empower the consumer and it would break that monopoly that Apple and Google have had on the apps right now. You know, if you’ve got an iPhone, Tim Cook gets to decide what kind of apps you’re going to have on that phone. They take 30% of the profit on the apps, and the innovator is then left with their portion of it. And they’re not able to communicate directly with the consumer. Everything is going through Apple.
The Tennessee conservative said Apple and Google make a significant amount of money through their app stores, which is why they do not want this bill, which would empower consumers to have control over their phones and apps, to be passed.
She added, “That’s why they do not want this bill to move forward, because they want to control everything that goes on your phone.”
Many technology groups, consumer groups, and telecommunications experts support the legislation, such as Zach Graves, the executive director of the Lincoln Network, Joel Thayer, the president of the Digital Progress Institute, Jon Schweppe, the director of government affairs at the American Principles Project, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr.
“I applaud Senator Blackburn, Senator Blumenthal, and Senator Klobuchar for their leadership in working to rein in Big Tech,” Carr said in a statement in August 2021. “The gatekeeper power that corporate behemoths now exercise over the app economy is harming consumers and competition. This legislation is a thoughtful way to eliminate those harms while promoting innovation.”
Blackburn said the bill should quickly move out of the Senate, House, and onto the president’s desk to sign.
“It is the right thing to do. It should be taken to the Senate floor, UC’d [unanimous consent], clear the House, and go to the president’s desk,” Blackburn said.
Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.