By Tom Romanoff
Big Tech is still between Republicans and Democrats, but there is little consensus on regulating the industry. On the one hand, there is agreement that American technology is the world leader and one of the most important industries. On the other hand, concerns about the scale and influence of Big Tech have been expressed. As technology plays an ever-increasing role in how we interact at work and at home, we need to get it right.
As Congress grapples with partisan technology agendas, the European Union is passing laws that will put a damper on data privacy and how our tech companies operate overseas. Russia and China continue to use cyber attacks to gain access to classified and classified information while influencing political debates around the world. Bipartisan, practical solutions are needed to keep America’s technology industry innovative and strong. In particular, three strategies to advance this goal have broad support: improving data privacy, securing cyberspace, and funding innovation.
Bipartisan, practical solutions are needed to keep America’s technology industry innovative and strong.
Before we get into those strategies, let’s look at the next steps: Republicans may take over the House next year and have expressed their desire to investigate bias in conservative speech online. A few Democrats who share this priority have chosen to introduce proposals in the 117th Congress on antitrust and competition issues in the technology sector. If there is a possibility of bipartisan legislation to address online bias and misinformation, it is amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, either by adding carvings to the existing language or enacting new laws to address issues arising from online misinformation. Section 230 provides liability protection for platforms that host content, but in recent years exemptions have been added or introduced to make websites more liable for damages from their content. Democrats, in this case, will continue to confront Big Tech with competition and antitrust policies, but they want to do it through federal agency officials. With Special Assistant to the President Tim Wu and FTC Chair Lena Kahn spearheading the activist regulatory agenda, we expect to see more from the DOJ, FTC and CFPB, at least in terms of regulating the tech sector.
Returning to the possibilities of binary solutions, let’s start with the most difficult one – improving data privacy. Congress has spent the past six sessions trying to pass the National Data Privacy Act. Many, including myself, believe that this is the root of TechClash and many other legislative proposals that would benefit the implementation of federal law. The US Data Privacy and Protection Act is the latest bipartisan proposal that provides a new starting point for future issues. As China and the EU pass their data management laws and US states pass theirs, data privacy is dependent on access. This could result in excessive compliance costs, loss of innovation and opportunity for US citizens.
Cybersecurity is another strategy for which we have seen strong bipartisan support and success in strengthening America’s digital infrastructure. Cyber threats are a clear and ongoing threat to Americans and must be addressed as soon as possible. Congress has several initiatives with bipartisan support that they can prioritize moving forward. These include digital identity measures to combat online fraud, supporting workforce development to train the next generation of cyber security professionals and securing our digital supply chain.
Cybersecurity is another strategy for which we have seen strong bipartisan support and success in strengthening America’s digital infrastructure.
The ultimate strategy is to fund innovation for America’s next technology leadership. Many of the technologies we enjoy today began in government research labs. We can point to the Internet, the Green Revolution, and more, as clear examples of how government investment in technology has yielded positive results. We know the next leap in technology is just around the corner. Quantum computing, AI, 6G, high-capacity batteries, and more are areas of research that will fuel American innovation in the future. While these new areas of technology are promising, the support network needed to ensure we can build these systems is at stake. USCA attempts to address this problem, but there is still a need to secure the materials, expertise, and capacity to build systems for the next generation of technology. Bipartisan lawmakers must continue to prioritize these areas as a national security priority.
Technology continues to become more integrated into our lives. In order to protect future technological iterations, Congress should prioritize the areas identified in this section. If we don’t, we risk giving leadership to foreign competitors and stifling innovation at home.
Tom Romanoff is director of the Technology Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center.