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What is Senate Bill S.2992? Here's what we know.

Dozens of viewers have emailed us asking about the ads claiming the bill would take away digital tools from small businesses — so we looked into it.

MAINE, USA — You may have seen the ads for Senate Bill S.2992, claiming it would take away digital tools from small businesses, help China beat America in the tech race, and increase the risk for cyberattacks. 

It's actually called the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, but what exactly would this bill do?

"This bill is designed to essentially level the playing field, so to speak, as it regards to antitrust," Christine Davik, a University of Maine internet law professor, said.

She explains that the measure would create a law to keep the biggest four tech companies: Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, from having a monopoly over the online marketplace.

"The practices that they are engaging in are really designed to ensure they don't have competitors," Davik added.

Ads associated with this bill are causing many NEWS CENTER Maine viewers to have questions about exactly what this bill means and its anticipated impact. 

What we can tell you is, according to the bill's text, it would prohibit certain large online platforms from doing certain things such as giving preference to their own products, or limiting the availability of competing products from another business.

So, if you type 'smart speaker' into Amazon, Google, or Safari, you'll get different speakers based on the search engine you're using.

That's because each company gives preference to its own product.

But — why are there so many ads about the bill?

"The primary motivation behind the ads is to prevent the bill from passing," Mark Brewer, a political science professor at UMaine, said.

He says the ads you're seeing are issue-advocacy ads.

"You put out why this is good, or why this is bad in this case, and you talk about who you would like voters to try to influence. [You'll] say, please contact so and so and tell them to vote no or vote yes on whatever it is," he added.

Senator Collins' office said in a statement, "Congress has a role in ensuring that tech companies do not violate longstanding antitrust laws or harm consumers. Should this bill come before the full Senate, I will carefully review it to ensure that it is fair and does not negatively affect consumers, small businesses, or American competitiveness."

Senator Angus King's office added that he "is currently reviewing the bill to evaluate whether it best effectively accomplishes its goals, and gathering input from Maine people and experts in the field."

Some of you have also asked us how this bill could affect small businesses.

"Without this bill, small businesses might be harmed more," Davik said.

NEWS CENTER Maine airs these ads in accordance with regulations from the Federal Communications Commission

According to the commission, it does not review or pre-approve the content of political ads before they are broadcast. It does not ensure the accuracy of statements that are made by candidates and issue advertisers, or require broadcast stations to provide all sides of controversial issues.

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