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Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai both personally lobbied members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against legislation that would begin to rein in the monopolistic practices of Big Tech, according to reports.
Their efforts looked to have failed after the committee on Thursday advanced bipartisan legislation that would forbid tech companies from favoring their own products over competing ones. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act now moves to the full Senate floor — and is sure to kick up another round of furious lobbying by the tech titans.
Cook and Pichai personally called and met with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee prior to the panel’s hearing, according to multiple reports. The panel voted 16-6 on a bipartisan basis to advance the measure, which is sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
The measure targets the largest firms based on market valuation and user base, limiting its scope to Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft.
Punchbowl News was first to report on the lobbying efforts by Cook and Pichai.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had a lengthy conversation with Cook about the bill one day before the panel met.
“I spent about 40 minutes on the phone yesterday with Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who expressed significant concerns about the bill,” Cruz said, according to CNBC.
“One issue that he raised, that I thought was a reasonable issue was a concern, that the bill would erect obstacles to Apple giving consumers the ability to opt out of apps monitoring what they’re doing online where they’re going, and what’s occurring on their phone,” Cruz added.
The legislation marks the latest effort by lawmakers from both parties to rein in Big Tech. The House Judiciary Committee advanced a similar bill over the summer, but it has yet to be brought to the House floor for a full vote.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act will likely face further debate, with several senators suggesting the bill needs changes before a final vote.
Major tech companies argue the antitrust bill could have unintended consequences for national security and user privacy. Aside from Google and Apple, firms lobbying against the bill include Amazon, Microsoft, Spotify and Twitter.
The companies also oppose the Open App Markets Act, a separate bill up for consideration that would target anticompetitive business practices in online app stores.
“These bills would impose one set of rules on American companies while giving a pass to foreign companies. And they would give the Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies unprecedented power over the design of consumer products,” Kent Walker, chief legal officer for Google and its parent Alphabet, said in a lengthy letter on the legislation.