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Tech advocacy group uses TikTok creators to boost antitrust bills

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TikTok creators are campaigning for bills aimed at reining in the power of massive tech firms in videos poking fun at the companies. 

The videos are part of a campaign by the Tech Oversight Project to boost antitrust reform proposals stalled in Congress. Rather than mentioning the bills by name or including legislative jargon, the campaign leans into TikTok’s short-from comedic style to try and reach voters. 

“We don’t have the deep, deep pockets that these tech companies and their front groups have. As you’ve seen throughout this antitrust campaign, through the coalition of advocacy groups that are working on this, we’ve had to resort to creative and scrappier methods to get attention,” Sacha Haworth, executive director of the Tech Oversight Project told The Hill.  

“We just simply don’t have the resources that the second wealthiest man in the world does and has associated companies,” she added. 

The main bill the group has been pushing is the American Online Innovation and Choice Act, which would limit dominant tech companies from preferencing their own products over rivals. 

The Tech Oversight Project launched at the start of this year to push for antitrust reform. It is funded primarily by the Omidyar Network, the philanthropic network of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and the Economic Security Project. 

In the TikTok campaign, the videos don’t discuss the details of the bill. Instead, the videos focus on alleged anti-competitive practices.

For example, a video posted by the creator “Dez” plays out a hypothetical scenario of a small business looking to sell items online without using Amazon. Within the 40-second clip, the small business owner is told that Amazon has started selling “that thing for much cheaper than you could ever dream of getting it” by “selling it with hate” which got the cost down.

The videos don’t explicitly come across like a traditional commercial, although they do disclose their paid partnership. Haworth said the campaign was created this way to try and reach Generation Z and first-time voters. 

“We thought they’re probably more likely to remember a funny sketch about the ills of [monopolies] than a history lesson or sort of the detailing of policy,” she said. 

The campaign, which launched earlier this month, also includes videos in Spanish. 

The push comes as the American Online Innovation and Choice Act, sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is stalled amid a dwindling legislative calendar. The proposal advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support earlier this year. A House version advanced out of committee last year. 

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in August said the bill will be brought to a vote, but did not provide a timeline.

“We’re still in the midst of this push and we’re not at all going to slow down,” Haworth said.

Tags Amazon Amy Klobuchar antitrust TikTok

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