Lawmakers Make Progress on Big Tech Regulation
Bipartisan Support and a Sense of Urgency Drive Lawmakers
Last week, a group of bipartisan senators released legislation which would prevent tech companies from favoring their products and services over others. Meanwhile, lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are working on a proposal to stop social media companies from promoting content on their platforms which is harmful to users. Lawmakers appear to have a new sense of urgency to get legislation passed. There is also a level of bipartisan cooperation that hasn’t been seen in the past.
Facebook Revelations Drive the Legislative Push
The push to regulate Big Tech has been spurred by recent reports which shed light on the harm Instagram causes teenagers. Facebook was aware of the damage Instagram was doing to some of its teenage users, but didn’t disclose its internal findings. The reports prompted two hearings before the Senate and are driving many of the recently proposed bills.
One regulation, which has a good chance of passing, is an update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which was first put in place in 1998. The change would prohibit internet companies from gathering information on 13- to 15-year-olds without their consent.
An Uphill Battle for Lawmakers
Despite the momentum in Congress, even passing an update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act could prove difficult. After all, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple all have big lobbying operations in Washington and spend millions to get their points across. In the first six months of 2021, Amazon spent close to $10.2 million on lobbying. Facebook spent $9.6 million in the same period.
The tech companies say they support updated regulations for the internet but oppose a lot of the specific legislation Congress is working on. For years, calls for more regulation of tech companies have fallen on deaf ears in Congress. Now, that has changed. It will be interesting to see how negotiations in Washington unfold and what impact regulations could have on the tech industry.
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