Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are backing legislation to reel in Big Tech firms and institute content restraints, aiming to deter the spread of harmful information and disallow dominant platforms from self-promoting their own products and services.
The bipartisan group of senators includes Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), complementing the efforts being propelled by the House, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday (Oct. 19).
Tim Wu, special assistant to President Biden for technology and competition, told WSJ that the combination of bipartisan cooperation and pressing importance “is truly rare.”
“This is, as they say, the moment,” he added.
Some of the new traction sprung from the Journal’s Facebook Files series, which included data from the social media giant’s internal research that indicated Instagram can trigger increased body image woes in some teenagers.
An update to the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is one tactic being considered, which is backed by bipartisan legislators as well as youth advocacy groups.
Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, is joining other advocates in pushing for an update to the law that would ban tech firms from collecting data on teens ages 13 to 15 without their consent. Advocates are further pushing for a mandate that would protect minors from the excessive collection of personal information.
While Big Tech firms have largely expressed interest in an update to outdated laws regarding internet regulation, they also drop piles of cash lobbying on Capitol Hill. Amazon’s lobbying expenditures for the first six months of 2021 totaled $10.2 million; Facebook spent $9.6 million, per data from OpenSecrets.
Facebook has been particularly vocal about urging Washington to enact new internet laws, which are currently stuck in 1996. “Companies like Facebook have completely different challenges and responsibilities, and this is why Facebook supports updated internet regulations,” the company said in a streaming advertisement.
Facebook, like other tech firms, has largely pushed back on many proposals coming out of Congress, pointing to the fluid nature of its marketplace and the importance of protecting the digital economy and U.S. competitiveness, the WSJ reported.
Google Vice President of Government Affairs and Private Policy Mark Isakowitz said the company isn’t against antitrust scrutiny or increased privacy regulation, but some congressional antitrust proposals could have “unintended consequences for Americans and small businesses,” he noted.