There Is No Bipartisan Consensus on Big Tech

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Finally, we have reached Bipartisan Consensus on Big Tech, Everyone’s Welcome! at least that’s the line press Is echo advertisement Getting nausea. “Facebook whistleblower rules out bipartisan support to curb Big Tech,” financial Times Trumpet last week after Frances Haugen’s Senate testimony on Facebook. “Laps sent a bipartisan no-confidence message to Big Tech,” newsweek Wrote a day later. For more than a year, but especially since last week’s US Senate hearings, the media is increasingly suggesting that Democrats and Republicans are putting aside their long-standing disagreements over tech policy.

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But beyond their winning headlines, many of these articles pay attention (often clumsy) that “consensus” is simply an opinion that Some Big tech needs some kind of regulation. This is where the idea of ​​”bilateral consent” breaks down, and where there is danger in this expression.

It is true that over the years US lawmakers have become far more vocal about the Silicon Valley technology giants, their products and services, and their market practices. still only agree that Some should be done, and only at that, is as superficial as bipartisan consensus. There is still disagreement among the elected representatives of both parties about what something is, why something should happen, and what the problems are in the first place. All of these factors are shaping both the rules proposed in Congress and the road ahead to make them a reality.

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On top of this, the media separating national politics from the technical law process only threatens to repeat the problems of the past several decades, where imagining technology as non-political tends to ignore the dangers facing regulators and society. is favorable. This hyperbolic rhetorical analysis of the difficult road ahead of real, genuine regulation – and how many threats to democracy (and democratic technical law) lie from within.

generous for decades Democracies from the United States to France to Australia have consistently described the Internet as a free, secure and resilient golden child of democracy. especially from the American leaders of Bill Clinton Jell-O-To-A-Wall Speech In 2000 the State Department’s so-called internet freedom agenda of 2010, lauded the power of the web to end authoritarianism around the world. Let alone, the argument went, democratic governments can enable the Internet to be as pro-democratic as possible.

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The basis for today’s call to regulate Big Tech is no small change. While it is tempting to view this change as one-sided, some sections of the media often forget that the technology is not a monolith and that many different events have led to many different calls for regulation: Equifax. data breachcambridge analytica secrecy scandalmilf russian ransomware attack, covid fake news, a propaganda campaign targeting black voters, uses Racist and Sexist Algorithmshandjob abusive police uses monitoring technology, and on and on. Not all MPs care equally or at all on these issues.

Data breaches and ransomware appear to be the two areas with the greatest potential for consensus legislation; Members of Congress barely stand to assert their belief in lowering the cyber security bar and making their constituents vulnerable to attacks. Earlier this year, after several, significantly damaging ransomware attacks from within Russia, members of Both parties Condemned the behavior and highlighted how Congress and the White House could respond by sanctioning Russian actors and investing more in domestic security. House and Senate held ransomware the hearing In July, build on important civil society work To drive bipartisan responses to threat.

Recently, another area of ​​apparently bipartisan concern is (rightfully) the pitfalls of social media for children – as with Facebook. buried Research on the toxicity of Instagram to teenage girls.

There is no “bipartite consensus” on misinformation and propaganda in general, even as many of the two parties have found a common enemy in Kremlin-funded lies on social media. Many Republicans continue to push both factually baseless claims of intentionally “Big Tech censoring conservative material” and legislation to overhaul Section 230 under the same guise. scene, as with those who explicitly supported Donald Trump’s authoritarian executive order on social media, is that conservative political figures should be explicitly exempted from online criticism (in a democracy, wrong) – and that private companies have no right to remove or restrict content ( Even if legally, they do). Users who openly violate their policies, such as by posting racist videos or tweeting COVID-19 propaganda. Republican Senator Ron Johnson echoed this in a Press release one for july bill, rejecting the absurd, baseless, conspiratorial allegations that the Biden administration was “coordinating with Big Tech to infringe on the First Amendment freedoms of American citizens.”

Never mentioned in these discussions is how the GOP figures themselves have been a major driver of the election and Covid-19 propaganda. While this rhetoric has diminished since Trump left office, some members of the Republican Party still pursue the concept of the “content moderation problem” based not on fact, but on volunteer politics; His position differs significantly from that of Democrats, who focus content moderation discussions on hate speech and misinformation, even if the proposal does other harm.

Democrats and Republicans also disagree on what to do, if anything, about the algorithms. Congressional Democrats have introduced laws like Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act And a bill to restrict the use of facial recognition devices by federal entities, and in 2019 a Democratic and a Republican senator co-sponsored bill To restrict the commercial use of facial recognition. Yet given broader issues such as policing, which fall under the use of facial recognition, members of the Democratic Party differ substantially in their support for abolition and reform, and this tends to be weaker than Republicans who In advance Racist whataboutism compares peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters to violent extremists who staged a coup at the US Capitol.

And the consensus on antitrust, which was promised just a year ago, also seems to be crumbling. of the House Judiciary Committee report good On Competition in Digital Markets, released in October 2020, was a rare example of bipartisan work. Published after a 16-month investigation, it recommended that Congress work to restore competition in the digital economy, strengthen antitrust laws, and revive antitrust enforcement at the Federal Trade Commission. But when House Judiciary Republicans released him work schedule Last July to “take on Big Tech,” it explicitly claimed that “Big Tech is out to get conservative,” as stated in the first sentence, followed by a recommendation to undermine FTC antitrust work. Because empowering the FTC would mean empowering “radicals”. Biden bureaucrat. “

All this quest for (or hoping) a bipartisan agreement on Big Tech perpetuates the techno-centrism of technology discourse – where technology is the primary factor in addressing technology issues, and technology challenges are treated separately from political challenges. In fact, Big Tech regulation cannot be separated from other Congressional issues. This includes the Republican Party that pushes for undemocratic voting laws to take away voting rights from black communities; Including politicians who continue to spread propaganda about the coronavirus; Including the policing of women’s bodies through anti-option laws, which is supported citizen surveillance; Including top GOP members who have been lying about the incident on January 6 – including incitement to violence and support for authoritarianism. Members of the parties do not care about the same underlying issues, and in fact the continued attacks on democracy by many elected Republicans cannot be ignored when discussing the democratic technology future.

The disregard for political, social and economic factors inextricably linked to technology is a large part of the reason we are where we are today. Perpetuating this problem by pretending to separate tech regulation from politics—and continuing to marginalize the voices of those dealing with political and technological pitfalls—is only going to further diminish the chance in a more democratic technology future.


wired opinion Publishes articles by external contributors representing a wide range of perspectives. read more opinions Here, and see our submission guidelines Here. Submit an op-ed at [email protected].


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