President Joe Biden’s administration issued a checklist of actions needed to rein in Big Tech on Thursday, following a roundtable “listening session” on issues in the tech industry.
But administrators weren’t “listening” to the companies that are the targets of many of the desired actions — Google parent Alphabet Inc. GOOGLE,
Amazon.com Inc. AMZN,
Apple Inc. AAPL,
and Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms Inc. META,
The only tech industry representatives in attendance were the CEOs of Mozilla Corp. and Sonos Inc. SONO,
“The rise of technology platforms has introduced new and difficult challenges, from the tragic acts of violence associated with toxic online cultures, to the deterioration of mental health and well-being, to the basic rights of Americans and communities worldwide affected by the rise of technology platforms . and small,” the White House said in a statement after convening 16 experts — most of them administration officials — to discuss the technology.
Neither Big Tech company responded to a request for comment about the hearing, but people familiar with the thinking at two of the companies weren’t entirely surprised. They noted increased actions by the administration to hold social media companies and vendors of major digital platforms more accountable, with the chances of a Senate vote seemingly diminishing by the hour.
Read more: As Congress pushes for Big Tech regulations, the FTC isn’t waiting
Industry analysts, however, expressed disappointment at an exclusive, private meeting that recommended punitive action against the industry’s biggest players without offering a seat at the table. The most controversial reform listed on the administration’s list called for “the elimination of special protections for large technology platforms,” including changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The section generally provides website platforms with immunity from third-party content.
“Section 230 provides critical protections for platforms of all sizes to limit content and remove harmful posts, and our research confirms that these protections are most important for smaller sites,” said Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich. The trade group is funded by Amazon, Meta, Google, Apple, Twitter Inc. TWTR,
Uber Technologies Inc. UBER,
Six broad goals outlined in the White House legislation are slowly making their way through Congress, the latest sign of a growing crackdown by the White House on high-tech influence as the legislation moves through the Senate and House. The Justice Department is expected to file lawsuits against Google over its online ads and Apple over its dominant App Store in the coming weeks, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal, Politico and elsewhere.
Social media platforms—in particular, Meta, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube—have been identified as the scourge of politicians playing on popular sentiment to rein in digital data collectors like Meta and Amazon. These two companies are primary targets of the Federal Trade Commission.
Congressional inaction was reflected earlier this week when a flustered Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who authored a bill to strip the power of powerful digital platform owners like Apple and Facebook, claimed an “unbelievable onslaught of money” was an obstacle to the passage of legislation.
“What has slowed us down is the incredible onslaught of money, and that’s what happens with monopolies,” Klobuchar, author of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, said Tuesday at the Code Conference in Los Angeles. “Senators are talking about it, about the ads that run in every state.”
Opinion: Democrats have promised to rein in Big Tech. They have failed.
Tech industry-funded organizations have plowed more than $200 million into political ads and other lobbying efforts since the start of 2021, according to ad tracker AdImpact and others.
Klobuchar, who has written a book on antitrust reform and chaired Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on anticompetitive business practices for more than a year, has pushed furiously for a full Senate vote on her landmark bill as time melts every day in the current legislation. conferences. [The White House said Thursday it was encouraged to see bipartisan interest in Congress to adopt antitrust legislation to address the power of major U.S. tech companies.]
But with none of the major companies in attendance absent, reporters pressed White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre on the involvement of Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker and Sonos CEO Patrick Spence to represent the views of the technology industry.
Sonos and Google have been locked in a series of lawsuits against each other over speaker technology since 2020. Sonos called two lawsuits filed last month by Google as “intimidation tactics” intended to “retaliate against Sonos for speaking out against Google’s monopolistic practices” for royalty payments .
See also: Sonos stock rockets as patent win over Google could mean potential financial gains
The nonprofit Mozilla, whose Firefox web browser competes with the likes of Google, has repeatedly clashed with Big Tech. On Friday, the company’s chief security officer, Marshall Erwin, urged federal regulators to crack down on Internet giants and browser makers that fail to protect user privacy.
“Online privacy is a mess, consumers are stuck in this vicious cycle where their data is collected, often without them realizing it, and then used to manipulate them,” Erwin said during a forum on FTC on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security.
“The way we see the roundtable today, it’s again the biggest roundtable we’ve seen from this administration on dealing with technology,” Jean-Pierre said. he said. “What you have to take away from today, or take away from today, is that, you know, the president is going to and has long called for fundamental legislative reforms to address real issues. And so we will continue to do that.”
The elusive answer came a day before Biden met in Ohio with Intel Corp. INTC,
CEO Pat Gelsinger at a groundbreaking ceremony for Intel’s new $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility, weeks after Congress passed the $280 billion Chip and Science Act in July.
“The future of the chip industry will be made in America,” Biden said at the event, a preliminary push by the White House to seek new funding for manufacturing and infrastructure. “The industrial Midwest is back.”
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