Lawmakers believe 2022 will be a critical year in their efforts to tighten restrictions on social media and other internet platforms, and they are urging Vice President Joe Biden to get involved.
Democrats and Republicans are working on a half-dozen or more critical pieces of legislation addressing online privacy and children’s safety, data-collection transparency, social media content accountability, and market dominance by a few significant businesses.
However, substantial technological corporations and partisan disagreements between Republicans and Democrats may oppose these and other initiatives. While both sides have been critical of Big Tech, Democrats have backed stricter regulations—for example, on harmful content—while Republicans have favored a softer approach and opposed measures that could restrict expression.
The possibility that Republicans could take control of the House or Senate after the November midterm elections adds to the pressure in 2022, and it would throw policy priorities into disarray. That gives Democratic supporters only a few months to pass their bills, many of which are still in the works.
“The key is whether Biden personally gets involved and prioritizes passage,” according to Cowen Washington Research Group, referring to legislation that would prevent big tech corporations from prioritizing their products and services on their platforms. According to the financial research firm, the plan has a 65 percent chance of passing with Mr. Biden’s involvement and a 40 percent probability without him.
“President Biden has long said the tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms that they cause and has been a strong supporter of fundamental reforms to achieve that goal. Privacy and antitrust reforms, as well as more transparency, should also all be on the table as we address the large platforms’ business models and the incentives they create to promote sensational and divisive content.”The office said
In addition, Tech companies have been reminding policymakers of their growing importance in the economy. Amazon.com Inc., for example, has bragged about its enormous investments in new infrastructure and hiring last year, as well as the positive effects on city revitalization and job creation.
Meanwhile, senators on the Commerce Committee are working on legislation to improve consumer privacy, children’s online safety, platform responsibility, algorithm transparency, and other issues. However, because the list is extensive, several tech lobbyists and congressional staffers fear lawmakers may become stymied, especially with only a few months to act.
Even so, it appears that action is still conceivable, particularly on smaller topics like focused attempts to safeguard children from online exploitation or limited transparency requirements.