Legislators Push for Stronger Laws on Big Tech

Congressional legislators from both parties have started to signal their support for new restrictions and regulations on major technology companies, such as Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, came out in support of a new bill to restrict online platforms from favoring products or services that they make, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a bill aimed at discouraging the promotion of harmful content on social media.

“There’s a different sense of urgency now, coupled with a level of bipartisanship that is truly rare,” Tim Wu, an adviser to President Joe Biden on technology and competition, told the Journal. “This is, as they say, the moment.”

He later added, “I think the efforts to attract young users and negative effects on teenagers’ mental health have really served to bring into focus what is really a broader set of problems, including vaccine misinformation, attacks on our elections, and other problems stemming from the lack of accountability.”

Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, the nonprofit organization that used to be known as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, added, “if there’s going to be anything, it’s around kids.”

Google vice president for government affairs and public policy Mark Isakowitz told the Journal the company is one member of a “fast-moving, rapidly changing, competitive industry,” and noted they do not oppose increased regulation or privacy on platforms used by children or antitrust scrutiny.

“Congress should carefully consider the unintended consequences for Americans and small businesses of breaking a range of popular products that people use every day,” he added.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said the lack of movement on the issue from Congress is “frankly nothing short of pathetic,” adding, “it would be a fairly damning commentary on Congress” if they “didn’t put some points on the board.”

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., one of the main authors of the 1998 children’s privacy law, said during testimony before a recent Senate panel, former Facebook employee “Frances Haugen’s whistleblowing laid bare that when Facebook sees kids online, they see dollar signs. The public is demanding action, and there is bipartisan support for congressional efforts to, at the very least, update the laws protecting our kids online.”

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