Four major tech issues facing the Biden administration
President-elect Joe Biden will face a vastly different tech landscape in January than the one he interacted with just four years ago as vice president.
While he enjoys overwhelming support in the tech industry, a return to the rosy D.C.-Silicon Valley relationship of the Obama-era is unlikely anytime soon.
Here are some of the biggest tech policy issues facing Biden and how his administration may approach them.
Content moderation: Biden has taken an unorthodox position on a law considered to be the bedrock of the modern internet, saying earlier this year that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should be revoked “immediately.”
The 1996 law, which has come under increasing scrutiny ever since President Trump targeted it with an executive order in May, gives internet companies immunity from lawsuits for content posted on their sites by third parties and allows them to make “good faith” efforts to moderate content.
While Biden’s stated position on the issue is not too different from Trump’s, the two are worlds apart in terms of their reasoning. Trump and Republicans maintain that the law is being used to censor conservative content on social media platforms, despite no evidence showing any ideological bent in moderation. Biden, meanwhile, argues that tech companies haven’t done enough to tackle misinformation on their platforms.
Antitrust: Scrutiny surrounding the market power of America’s biggest tech companies has increased almost exponentially since Biden was last in office.
House Democrats released a report this fall spelling out alleged abuses of monopoly power by Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, as well as potential legislative recourse.
But unless Democrats pull off the unexpected and win both Senate seats in Georgia’s runoff elections on Jan. 5, getting those suggested reforms through Congress may prove difficult given that Republicans refused to sign on to the blockbuster House report.
The Biden administration can turn to federal agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) or Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to push through some of those antitrust changes, said Morgan Harper of the American Economic Liberties Project, an advocacy group focused on fighting monopolies and corporate power.
Privacy: Federal data privacy legislation has been bogged down in Congress for years now, but there is hope that a new administration and increasing pressure coming from a new law in California could provide fresh momentum.
While congressional talks have fractured several times, there is broad consensus on what a privacy bill should contain, including protections for consumers like the ability to access, correct and erase the personal data companies have collected on them. Advocates say those protections are essential and should be a priority.
Broadband: The coronavirus pandemic has made Americans more reliant than ever on the internet, and industry observers and advocates are hopeful that the Biden administration will make expanding and improving broadband a priority.
Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom, wrote in a letter to Biden and the incoming Congress that the “first 100 days of a new administration and new Congress are critical to charting a clear, bipartisan course for our nation’s policy agenda.”
Biden laid out a plan to invest $20 billion in broadband infrastructure, a proposal that lines up neatly with some Democratic bills on the issue.