President Joe Biden’s administration released a checklist of actions needed to rein in Big Tech on Thursday, following a roundtable “listening session” on issues in the tech industry.
But administration officials weren’t “listening” to companies that are the target of many desired actions – Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. GOOGL,
Amazon.com Inc. AMZN,
and Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms Inc. META,
The only tech industry representatives present were the chief executives of Mozilla Corp. and Sonos Inc.SONO,
“The rise of tech platforms has introduced tough new challenges, from tragic acts of violence linked to toxic online cultures, deteriorating mental health and well-being, and the basic rights of suffering Americans and communities around the world. of the rise of technology platforms and small,” the White House said in a statement after convening 16 experts — mostly administration employees — to discuss the technology.
None of the Big Tech companies responded to request for comment on the listening session, but people familiar with the thinking of two of the companies weren’t entirely surprised. They noted an increase in administration actions to hold social media companies and providers of major digital platforms more accountable, with the odds of a Senate vote appearing to dwindle by the hour.
Read more: As Congress wades into Big Tech regulation, the FTC doesn’t wait
Industry analysts, however, expressed disappointment in 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 mentioned on the administration’s list called for “removing special protections for large technology platforms,” including amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The section generally provides website platforms with immunity from third-party content.
“Section 230 provides essential protections for platforms of all sizes to moderate content and remove harmful posts, and our research confirms that these protections are most important for smaller sites,” said Adam Kovacevich, CEO of Chamber. of Progress. The trade group is funded by Amazon, Meta, Google, Apple, Twitter Inc. TWTR,
Uber Technologies Inc. UBER,
Six major goals listed by the White House mirror legislation are making slow progress in Congress, the latest indication of a growing White House crackdown on high-tech influence as the legislation wallows in the Senate and House. The Justice Department is expected to file antitrust lawsuits against Google for its online advertising business and Apple for its dominant App Store in the coming weeks, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal, Politico and elsewhere.
Social media platforms – particularly Meta, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube – have been identified as the scourge of politicians who play on popular sentiment to curb digital data collectors such as Meta and Amazon. These two companies are the main targets of the Federal Trade Commission.
Congressional inaction was reflected earlier this week when a flustered Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is the author of a bill aimed at reducing the power of powerful owners of digital platforms like Apple and Facebook claimed that an “incredible attack of money” was an obstacle to passing the legislation.
“What’s 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 during the Code Conference in Los Angeles. “The senators are talking about it, ads running in every state.”
Opinion: Democrats have promised to rein in Big Tech. They failed.
Tech industry-funded organizations have invested more than $200 million in political ads and other lobbying efforts since the start of 2021, according to ad tracking service AdImpact and others.
Klobuchar, who wrote a book on antitrust reform and chaired Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on anticompetitive business practices for more than a year, furiously pushed for a full Senate vote on his landmark bill as time melts with each passing day in the current legislature session. [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 in the absence of the main big companies present, reporters pressed White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre on the participation of Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker and Sonos CEO Patrick Spence to represent the views of the tech 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 a “bullying tactic” intended to ” retaliate against Sonos for exposing Google’s monopolistic royalty payment practices. .
See also: Sonos shares soar as Google patent win could mean potential financial gains
The nonprofit organization Mozilla, whose Firefox web browser competes with 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 their knowledge, and then used to manipulate it,” Erwin said at an FTC forum on privacy. commercial monitoring and data security.
“The way we see the roundtable today is, again, the largest roundtable we’ve seen from this administration to deal with technology,” Jean-Pierre said. said. “What you should take away from today, or take away from today, is that, you know, the president will and has long called for fundamental legislative reforms to address the real issues. And so we will continue to do so.
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 plant weeks after Congress passed the 280 Chips and Science Act billion dollars in July.
“The future of the chip industry is going to be made in America,” Biden said at the event, a pre-White House campaign to tout new funding for manufacturing and infrastructure. “The industrial Midwest is back.”
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