The Advertising Middlemen Endangering Rigorous Internet Competition Accountability Act, aka the AMERICA Act. Say what you will about government; Congress’ acronym acumen is untouchable. Introduced by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, the bill would prohibit companies from owning multiple parts of the digital ad ecosystem if they “process more than $20 billion in digital ad transactions.”
The bill would kneecap Google and Meta, the two biggest players in digital advertising by far, but its provisions seem designed to affect almost every big tech company from Apple to Amazon, too. Google, Meta, Amazon, and Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
The only thing longer than the name of the bill is the stunningly bipartisan list of Senators supporting it: Democrats Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal, and Elizabeth Warren, and Republicans Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Eric Schmitt, Josh Hawley, John Kennedy, Lindsey Graham, J.D. Vance, and Lee. As one observer put it on Twitter, it’s a list of cosponsors “who wouldn’t hold the elevator for each other.” Look at all these little Senators getting along. Isn’t that nice?
“If enacted into law, this bill would most likely require Google and Facebook to divest significant portions of their advertising businesses—business units that account for or facilitate a large portion of their ad revenue,” Sen. Lee said in a fact sheet about the bill. “Amazon may also have to make divestments, and the bill will impact Apple’s accelerating entry into third-party ads.”
When you see an ad online, it’s usually the result of a lightspeed bidding war. On one side, the demand side, you have companies who want to buy ads. On the other, the supply side, are apps and websites who have ad space to sell. Advertisers use demand-side tech to compete for the most profitable ad space for their products. Publishers, like Gizmodo.com, use supply-side tech, where they compete to sell the most profitable ads. Sometimes there’s a third piece of tech involved called an “exchange,” which is a service that connects demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms to arrange even more complicated auctions.
Your friends at Google operate the most popular demand-side platform. Google also owns the most popular supply-side platform, and it runs the most popular exchange. And Google is also a publisher, because it sells ad space on places like YouTube and Search. Meta likewise has its hands in multiple corners of the pie. Here’s an analogy: it’s like if the realtor you contracted to represent you in buying a house had also been contracted by the people selling the house. It would be hard to trust that anyone was getting a fair deal, wouldn’t it? That realtor would be in a unique position to jack up the prices for everyone and make extra cash. The dominance is quantifiable—Google itself estimates that it snatches a stunning 35% of every dollar spent on digital ads.
Some people think this is all a little unfair! Unfortunately for Google and Meta, more and more of those people work for the US government.
This only targets a specific part of the monopolies / duopolies these companies hold, but it’s hugely bipartisan so we take what we can get.