Late last night, the House Judiciary Committee passed its tech antitrust report out of committee, signaling a new phase in the process towards legislation that would rein in behemoth companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Despite some signs of bipartisanship on antitrust issues, no Republicans voted in favor.
Rather, Republicans in the House Energy & Commerce Committee, led by Republican minority leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-WA5, introduced a memo proposing a set of priorities for tech reform preferred by Republicans that advance concerns around political speech. But, there are some similarities in reform measures favored by Democrats, which could signal future bipartisan action on a range of issues.2021.04.15-Big-Tech-Memo-Staff-Legislative-Concepts
Notably, the Republicans would seek to define companies over a threshold of $1 billion in revenue as “as places of public accommodation” in order to “prohibit discrimination based on political affiliation and/or viewpoint.” The memo makes calls for transparency on content moderation practices and introduces new liabilities related to content moderation or the failure to reduce criminal activity on platforms. And, it includes a focus on harms to children, which as a major theme from McMorris Rodgers, other House Republicans and some Democrats at the March 25th hearing with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.