President Joe Biden renewed his pitch for bipartisan antitrust enforcement during his State of the Union address Tuesday — after a year in which Congress whiffed again on Big Tech legislation.
“Pass bipartisan legislation to strengthen antitrust enforcement and prevent big online platforms from giving their own products an unfair advantage,” Biden said in his speech, underscoring a years-long effort in the Beltway to crack down on Silicon Valley with new laws promoting competition, protecting privacy and preventing misinformation.
He specifically called on Congress to protect kids from online threats, a notion strongly supported by Democrats and Republicans.
“We must finally hold social-media companies accountable for the experiment they are running on our children for profit,” Biden said. “And it’s time to pass bipartisan legislation to stop Big Tech from collecting personal data on kids and teenagers online, ban targeted advertising to children, and impose stricter limits on the personal data these companies collect on all of us.”
Just as important, Biden’s demand for transparency among tech companies’ algorithms and how they collect Americans’ personal data would mean regulation of internet platforms from the likes of Apple Inc.
Google and Amazon.com Inc.
— if Congress can agree on legislation.
Conversely, there was no call to overhaul Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that provides legal liability to companies like Meta Platforms Inc.
and Twitter Inc. for third-party content.
The president’s tech agenda is a natural byproduct of his decades-long, middle-class-themed “bottom up, middle out” philosophy.
But similar proclamations by leaders of both parties amid a national tech backlash have resulted in no major tech laws. Tech executives have been successful in lobbying efforts and in convincing key legislators that bludgeoning the tech sector is bad for the economy.
While privacy advocates lauded Biden’s tech stances, some tech organizations balked at business-bending laws as the industry goes through a massive sell-off of stocks and the elimination of tens of thousands of jobs to cut costs.
“Instead of advocating for arbitrary legislation that would target America’s most successful companies, weaken our national security, and degrade the products consumers and small businesses rely on every day, we also hope the president uses his speech to call for a federal privacy law — something that the administration, members of Congress, and most Americans agree should be a top priority,” TechNet CEO Linda Moore said in a statement.
Earlier in his national address, Biden lauded the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which he said will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the U.S.
And he pushed for the discontinuation of non-compete clauses that keep workers, especially in tech, from jumping to a rival company. “We’re banning those agreements so companies have to compete for workers and pay them what they’re worth.”
“I’m so sick and tired of companies breaking the law by preventing workers from organizing,” he continued. “Pass the PRO Act because workers have a right to form a union. And let’s guarantee all workers a living wage.”