The Monopoly Man, AKA Rich Uncle Pennybags, has been a staple at big tech hearings on Capitol Hill. As much as these hearings often lead to no tangible action on actually addressing the tech industry’s missteps, at their worst those hearings allow CEOs like Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg to appear like the smartest man in the room, making any real effort to rein in these tech monoliths that much harder.
But Monopoly Man remains, like the bat signal hovering over Gotham City. Now a new ad from a tech-centric advocacy group takes old Pennybags and turns him into a Scooby Doo villain. What’s behind the mask? It’s the main man Zuckerberg himself, or at least a deep fake version, and he wants to thank congressional members “for their service” for so far failing to pass antitrust legislation.
“It looks like the most consequential action Congress is poised to take is a bipartisan bill to prevent companies like mine from self dealing is about to fade away like so many efforts to rein in big tech in the past,” the fake Zuckerberg said in the video. “And when the House changes hands in January, who seriously thinks the republicans will do any better than democrats?”
Demand Progress Action released the ad online Tuesday, and in a press release sent to Gizmodo the group said it plans to run television ads using the video in New York and Washington, DC. It takes specific aim at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader from New York, about the lack of movement on two major tech antitrust bills, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and Open App Markets Act.
The AICOA would limit how companies can give preference to their own products and services in marketplaces, such as Amazon when the site often promotes its Amazon Basics products over competing items. The OAMA would specifically target app stores, hitting tech companies’ ability to self-deal when promoting their own applications. Both bills are currently out of committee, though neither has been scheduled for a vote.
In the release, DPA Executive Director David Segal said “If Leader Schumer does not call a vote on these bills or attach them to a must-pass vehicle in the weeks ahead, he will have squandered Congress’s best chance to hold Big Tech accountable in a generation. Zuckerberg, Bezos, and their millions of dollars will have won again.”
The ad also aims a punch at politicians who accept money from big tech. While some Republicans like Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan sometimes talk a big game against the worst perceived impulses of big tech and tech policy, but often end up decrying any meaningful effort from the House floor.
Back in August, Schumer’s office told reporters he planned to bring the antitrust legislation to a vote. But with November on the way out and an already packed session ahead for Congress, it does seem like chances for a vote are slim. Even with his promises, Schumer himself has received close to $30,000 from tech companies and tech lobbying groups going back to 2017, according to Bloomberg. His fifth top contributor was Alphabet, the owner of Google, which has provided $179,350 in donations for the past two election cycles, according to OpenSecrets. Gizmodo reached out to Schumer’s office for comment, but we did not immediately hear back.
Meta has been especially egregious in their attempts to fight off antitrust legislation. Reports from earlier this year showed Meta had spent over $4 million on astroturf campaigns to fight the bills through the lobbying group American Edge Project.
Gizmodo reached out to Meta for comment but did not immediately hear back.
Though it’s not just Meta acting shady on the political front. Reports show Amazon has also secretly bankrolled anti-antitrust lobbyists in the U.S. The online retail monolith has complained about the antitrust bills claiming they would increase prices and break Amazon Prime. Smaller tech companies have argued alongside consumer rights groups that these bills are necessary to give smaller companies a fighting chance in the ever-consolidated world of big tech.