Florida is home to more than 2.5 million small businesses, each one with a story of hard work and determination. But the onset of a global pandemic was unexpected for everyone, and many of Florida’s small businesses are still working hard to recover. Around the state, many small businesses and entrepreneurs expanded their use of digital tools, e-commerce sites and social media to ensure they could continue to connect with customers and grow. A new study by the Connected Commerce Council shows that of the small businesses they surveyed, 84% use digital tools to sell products/services and drive revenue, and 78% said that digital tool adoption during the pandemic created more opportunities for their businesses.Digital tools and sites have become a lifeline for many small businesses but now, they are under attack.
Now, these convenient features that allowed small businesses to connect – and that everyone uses in their day to day lives to work, live and play – are at risk of termination due to the recent passage of the American Innovation and Online Choice Act by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Big tech companies would no longer be able to use self-preferencing, a technique that allows for millions of people to use features such as Amazon Prime’s 2-day shipping and the Google Maps widget. This technique also allows small sellers on platforms like Amazon to quickly and effectively sell and ship their items.
In addition, these bills unfairly target American tech companies and will threaten the security of thousands of users. Companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple have spent years and millions of dollars developing safe-to-use websites and features for their users by integrating security features that best fit their needs. The American Innovation and Online Choice Act could force companies to utilize cybersecurity systems that were not designed specifically for their online programs, leaving millions of pieces of personal information vulnerable. Small business owners and entrepreneurs benefit from these services without having to spend extra money to feel safe – digital safety features are already built into the tools they use. Eliminating these often low-cost or free security features may cause unexpected expenses that hurt small businesses.
The attack on technology companies isn’t over and won’t stop at small businesses. Congress is in the midst of discussing the Open App Markets Act, which will also make purchasing and downloading apps more difficult and less safe, hurt developers and increases the possibility of malware and cyber-attacks.
Congress should be having discussions on how to keep consumers and users of digital tools and services safe. But they must do so in a way that considers their voices, and takes into account the negative unintended consequences that small business may have to deal with. The American Innovation and Online Choice Act is not only an attempt to destroy American tech companies, but to diminish consumers’ experiences as well. Senator Rubio and Senator Scott have the opportunity to fight against the passage of this harmful act. I hope that the millions of consumers in the state of Florida can rely on them to take a stand in Congress— small businesses need them to be their voice.
Julio Fuentes is president of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.