Privacy and content-moderation concerns are festering as Sen.
Lawmakers are united over the need to rein in big technology companies. Members of both parties are working on a sweeping bicameral effort involving various bills aimed at promoting competition, protecting consumers, and holding companies accountable for the spread of disinformation online.
One of the most prominent measures, Klobuchar’s (
The measure has drawn heavy lobbying from tech companies. They say limiting a company’s ability to demote and remove other businesses on its platform would interfere with efforts to moderate harmful content. Their arguments are weighing on undecided lawmakers.
“I agree with the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve here, but making sure the language is right matters,” Sen.
Many Democrats worry disinformation online risks compromising voter faith in the country’s electoral system and could lead to violence such as the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
Klobuchar said Senate Majority Leader
Padilla voiced concerns about the bill during a Senate Judiciary Committee markup but ultimately voted for it. Adding definitions for terms such as “preferencing” would help strike the right balance of protecting consumers while not taking away the services they enjoy, he said.
Padilla also said that while consumer data portability is important for promoting competition, he is concerned that privacy isn’t given equal priority in the bill.
Under the measure, platforms would have only a limited ability to restrict competitors’ access to customers’ data. Platforms also wouldn’t be able to use privacy as a pretext to block competition.
Padilla said his staff has had preliminary conversations with Klobuchar’s but no revised language has been received or agreed to.
On the Fence
Klobuchar tried to address her colleagues’ concerns in a Democratic caucus lunch last month, according to Sen.
Since then, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chair
Senate Intelligence Chairman
Some Republicans are also wary.
“We need to balance the needs of rural America with the bill because there are a lot of folks that do online shopping,” said Sen.
A senior House aide working on companion legislation said content moderation and privacy fears aren’t resonating in the lower chamber. The aide said the chambers are working hand and glove on final text and major changes to the bill are unlikely.
Tech giants including Google, Amazon,
Mark MacCarthy, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation, agreed the standard for reconciling privacy and competition is too favorable toward competition.
On content moderation, MacCarthy said: “I’m very worried that in trying to deal with competition, they’re wading into tricky territory that deserves its own bill.”
Not all tech companies share the concerns.
Lowe took issue with Google’s behavior, saying the platform’s own review content is bogged down by fake posts, yet it remains at the top of the page, swapping out the most relevant results for its own products.
The complaints aren’t slowing Klobuchar down.
“We’ve been making changes to the bill all along and we’ve listened to concerns,” Klobuchar said in an interview. “But let me be clear — this bill is not going to be some watered down version that ends up being a study of the problems with tech.”