The administration of President Barak Obama and his then Vice President Joe Biden was a fortunate era for the technology firms in the United States– A time when they were praised as innovative and job creators and mostly left alone. Now that Biden is back, this time as president, times have changed.
The days of worship in Washington will likely not return when Biden takes office in January, with mounting legislative and regulatory challenges facing the industry – including tougher enforcement of antitrust laws – almost certainly surviving the end of Donald Trump’s term. .
« The backlash against tech is in full swing”Said Eric Goldman, professor of law at Santa Clara University and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute.
In the years since Obama and Biden left the White House, the fortunes of the tech industry have changed. Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple have come under increasing scrutiny from Congress, federal regulators, state prosecutors, and European authorities. Twitter was frequently confronted with lawmakers over its content moderation policies on its platform. And the companies have seen their political support drop in Congress.
Legislators from both parties want a increased oversight of the industry, arguing that its enormous market power is out of control, crushing competitors and jeopardizing consumer privacy. They say that companies use a legal shield to allow the dissemination of false information on their social networks or to entrench biases.
Biden may seek to reduce the dominance of tech giants and you may find yourself with the opportunity to work with the opposition to reduce the power of a common adversary.
As a presidential candidate, Biden said a division within the big tech companies should be weighed. Dismantling the tech giants « is something we should seriously examine »Goldman told The Associated Press in an interview. He said he wants to see a quick look at social media companies’ protections for free speech on their platforms. He specifically mentioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, calling it « a real problem. »
The Biden administration is also expected to pursue the Justice Department’s new antitrust suit against Google, although its form may change.
But, if Biden decides to pursue a major reform of the laws governing technological competition, will have to navigate difficult waters, in Congress and politics in general.
Democratic representatives, after a vast investigation by a panel of the Legal Affairs Committee, called on Congress last month to curb the tech giants, possibly forcing them to split up their operations, as well as making it more difficult for them to acquire other firms and impose new rules to safeguard competition.
Those types of separations mandated by law would be a radical step for Congress and excessive for many Republicans.
Although the matter has not been decided yet, Biden faces the possibility of becoming the first Democrat in modern history to assume the presidency without his party controlling Congress.. Republicans would retain control of the Senate if they win one of two second round of elections in Georgia in January. Democrats will retain control of the lower house.
The Republican control of the Senate would force Biden to lower his ambitions and work on a different legislative agenda, based on bipartisanship. One possible area of agreement would be legislation on the technology industry.
« Biden’s strong point as a senator was precisely getting those kinds of deals, » said Goldman of Santa Clara University.
But what could emerge in the end is a heavy reliance on the executive branch through more aggressive implementation of existing antitrust laws, said Jerry Ellig, a former government official and professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Regulatory Studies. The Republican lawmakers will almost certainly remain united in opposition to fundamental changes in the tech industry, which could also affect smaller companies, while the Democrats could be divided in different directions.
The Lawsuit filed last week by the Justice Department accused Google of abusing its internet domain and advertising online to stimulate profits: it was the government’s most significant attempt to protect competition since its historic case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago.
There is also the matter of legal protection of freedom of expression on the social platforms of Facebook, Twitter and Google, another area of agreement between the two parties, albeit for different reasons.
Support has grown in Congress for lowering some of the protections that have allowed companies to evade legal responsibility for what people post on their platforms. The republicans They accuse the companies of an anti-conservative bias that erases those views from social media while allowing what they describe as far-left, anti-American rhetoric.
The Democratic concerns they focus on hate and prejudice messages and conspiracy theories that have incited physical violence and the amplification on platforms of the falsehoods promoted by Trump, especially allegations of fraud in recent elections.
During a Senate hearing last month, leaders of social media companies rejected accusations of anti-conservatism and vowed to actively defend their platforms to prevent them from being used to create chaos in the November 3 election.
Critics in both parties say immunity under Section 230 of the 1996 telecommunications law allows social media companies to waive their responsibility to impartially moderate content.
Biden has said that Section 230 « must be repealed immediately ».
Swift action could be difficult, given the landscape in Congress and the divisions of opinion on the material seen by almost everyone on the planet.
If a consensus bill emerges, says Ellig of George Washington University, « they’re going to make it vague enough for everyone to claim victory. »
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