Calling for Antitrust Reform

Mozilla supports the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA). The time for change is now.

It’s time for governments to address the reality that five tech companies—not everyday consumers—control our online experiences today. Updated competition laws are essential for the internet to be private, secure, interoperable, open, accessible, transparent, and a balance between commercial profit and public benefit. This is Mozilla’s vision for the internet. For a number of years, we have shared our views supporting government competition efforts globally to achieve it. 

One such proposal now under discussion in the US Congress is the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA). This bill is an important step in correcting two decades of digital centralization by creating a level playing field for smaller, independent software companies to compete. We support this bipartisan effort led by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley and Representatives David Cicilline and Ken Buck. 

We believe that AICOA will facilitate innovation and consumer choice by ensuring that big tech companies cannot give preference to their own products and services over the rich diversity of competitive options offered by others. Mozilla—and many other independent companies—cannot effectively compete without this antitrust law. We are disadvantaged by the fact that current and future Firefox users, many of whom are privacy and security focused, cannot easily install and keep Firefox as their preferred browser because of confusing operating system messages and settings. We are further challenged by app store rules designed to keep out Gecko, our independent browser engine that powers Firefox, Tor and other browsers. We are stuck when big tech companies do not offer us and other developers open APIs and other functionality needed for true interoperability. 

A fair playing field is vital to ensure that Mozilla and other independent companies can continue to act as a counterweight to big tech and shape the future of the internet to be more private and more secure. We understand that the bill sponsors intend AICOA to regulate only gatekeeper companies and their controlled products. It is not intended to regulate or impact the agreements or product offerings of non-regulated independent companies like Mozilla that partner with gatekeepers for critical services. Nor does it require trading off privacy and security in order to enhance competition.

We disagree with the position taken by opponents to AICOA that competition legislation will undermine privacy and security. It is true that companies like Apple and Google offer key privacy features and security services that protect millions; for example, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) approach and Google’s Safebrowsing service. Mozilla advocated for Apple to implement ATT, and Firefox (and all major browsers) use Safebrowsing. We do not believe these technologies would be impacted by AICOA because they can be provided without engaging in problematic self-preferencing behavior and because the bill includes clear protections for privacy and security.

Our view is that self-preferencing is preventing internet development from being more private and secure than it is today. For example, Mozilla was at the forefront of developing technology against cross-site tracking. Yet we have never released this technology to Firefox users on iOS because of App Store rules preferring Apple’s own browser engine over alternatives. As another example, Android’s affiliated browser Chrome does not offer anti-tracking technology. This leaves the majority of people on the planet without effective privacy protections. Real browser competition would empower millions to choose freely.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Mozilla Manifesto and two decades of our advocacy for a better internet. There has been progress in many areas, but the time has come for government action. 15 years of every major platform deciding for you that you should use their software is far too long. Enabling a level playing field for independent options is good for people’s online experiences, good for innovation and the economy, and ultimately good for a healthy, open internet.  We applaud those leading the charge on antitrust reform in the US and across the globe. The time for change is now.

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