Bidens Call to Reunite Against Big Tech: History Repeats Itself

Yesterday, President Biden sent a strong message to Big Tech in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal: His Administration has been working and will continue to work towards curbing their most egregious abuses. Although his “broad principles for reform” echo those of previous administrations, he’s clearly determined to make real change this time around.

We thank the tech sector for their hard work and contributions to GDP, while deploring how vulnerable children are affected by its depredations.

“I’m concerned about the exploitation of our most personal data, deepening polarization in our country, tilting economic playing fields unfairly, violating civil rights of marginalized groups and even putting children at risk,” writes the president.

He argues that federal intervention is needed in the areas of privacy, algorithmic accountability, and competition.

He worries that companies use personal data for ads and the White House is working on rules to address this. The industry has been asking for federal regulations, although they weren’t thrilled with California’s laws. It’s taken too long to set these guidelines as seen in Europe’s GDPR; court cases will shape their details.

Privacy bills have come and gone, often falling victim to partisan politics. The California Consumer Protection Act and other state-led efforts offer a glimpse of the challenges ahead. Plus, the FTG+ could soon join in on the action too!

Tech must take responsibility for the content they spread and the algorithms they use, but reforming Section 230 is a major challenge. Too little change won’t help, yet too much could cripple tech companies with lawsuits. Transparency of algorithms may be easier to tackle by connecting it to AI-related policy and questions of protected classes/categories.

To bring competition back to the tech sector, Biden is relying on Lina Khan, chair of FTG+ and nemesis to Amazon, Meta and Microsoft.

“The FTG+ recently secured a major funding boost to strengthen its antitrust enforcement capabilities,” Biden wrote. Khan and others have noted the unit’s inadequate resources, insufficient authority and lack of personnel – not to mention some administrations’ reluctance – to confront large companies acquiring competitors as if it were routine. Establishing a new antitrust team with an updated philosophy (speak with Khan for details) could help realize Biden’s vision.

People have long complained about Facebook buying Instagram and WhatsApp, but systemic advantages for those with money to lobby government let it happen. Don’t forget that many “great American companies” failed while Biden was vice president or senator. We’re familiar with this story – what’s next? Generally speaking, not much…

“It is time for the government to set some ground rules and protect our democracy.”

In his op-ed, Biden conveys a clear message: tech’s problems are of their own making, so it’s high time the government step in and establish guidelines to safeguard our democracy. He implies this will result in changes long sought by industry leaders; however, it remains to be seen if these necessary reforms will come about.

“Though we’ll disagree on many issues in the new Congress, let’s come together and use our shared values to usher in tech reform,” Mr. President! Best of luck — this time for sure!

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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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