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Biden calls for bipartisan legislation reining in big tech

President Joe Biden wants Section 230 and antitrust reform, as well as federal privacy regulation and transparency into AI algorithms.

President Joe Biden wants bipartisan support to pass legislation aimed at reining in big tech, but differing goals for Republicans and Democrats have strangled efforts to pass privacy, antitrust and artificial intelligence bills in the U.S.

Biden wants Republicans and Democrats to "come together to pass strong bipartisan legislation to hold Big Tech accountable," he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this month. While Biden has signed numerous executive orders since taking office in 2021 to protect data and increase competition, Congress has yet to pass any legislation addressing the concerns outlined by the Biden administration.

In the op-ed, Biden said the U.S. needs federal privacy protections to limit how companies can collect and use personal data, particularly for children. He also detailed the need for reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects companies from liability for content posted on their platforms. He said he also wants greater transparency into companies' use of algorithms that promote content and potentially withhold housing and job opportunities from women and minorities. Biden also called for bringing competition back to the tech sector by providing "fairer rules of the road."

To advance Biden's tech policy goals, panelists speaking during the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) webinar "Should Congress Pass President Biden's Tech Agenda?" said it's crucial that the administration keep business and consumer needs in mind.

Biden acts on tech policy goals

Since Biden took office in 2021, he has signed executive orders aimed at increasing competition and protecting personal data, which has spurred agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission to consider new privacy rules and increase antitrust action against big tech companies.

Also as part of Biden's tech agenda, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released its "Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights" last year to guide the ethical use of AI algorithms for companies. This concern rose to prominence in 2021 when Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed that algorithms used by the social media platform promoted harmful content to teens.

In addition, the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force released a report this week to create a national research infrastructure to increase access to resources for AI research and development.

Despite Biden's focus on tech policies aimed at limiting the power of big tech, voters remain most concerned with issues around privacy, said Adam Kovacevich, founder and CEO of the tech industry coalition Chamber of Progress. Kovacevich spoke on Biden's tech policies during the ITIF webinar.

According to a survey conducted by the Chamber of Progress of 2022 midterm voters, respondents listed fighting scams and malware, passing consumer privacy protections, and combating data discrimination as top priorities for the Biden administration. Respondents named Biden's other tech policies, such as eliminating Section 230 liability protections and certain antitrust reforms, as low priority.

"My biggest concern as someone who supports President Biden is that the Biden tech agenda may not fully reflect the priorities of the Biden voter," Kovacevich said.

Privacy legislation should top policy agenda

Biden is "on the right track," however, pushing for comprehensive federal privacy legislation, said Steve DelBianco, executive director of nonprofit NetChoice, during the ITIF webinar.

We want Congress to enact a national standard to replace an impossible patchwork of state laws.
Steve DelBiancoExecutive director, NetChoice

"We want Congress to enact a national standard to replace an impossible patchwork of state laws," he said.

Indeed, multiple states, including California, Virginia, Utah, Connecticut and Colorado, have passed data privacy laws, as more states debate doing the same. Meanwhile, more than 100 data privacy bills introduced in Congress in the last few years have failed to advance, including the recent American Data Privacy and Protection Act.

"Let's pass a national privacy law," said Linda Moore, president and CEO of technology business network TechNet, during the ITIF webinar.

Federal privacy legislation is something a group of U.S. senators expressed support for during a panel discussion at the technology conference CES held earlier this month in Las Vegas.

"We need to come back to a privacy bill," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said.

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget Editorial, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.

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