Bipartisanship in Congress is rare, but it shouldn’t always be celebrated. Bad ideas, despite consensus, still lead to bad results. And recent congressional efforts to rein in “big tech” have produced plenty of bad ideas.
In the 117th Congress, numerous bills have been introduced targeting the largest digital companies and platforms. The approach thus far seems simple: throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.
Antitrust is a common theme, with bills addressing the mobile app market, online retail, and mergers and acquisitions. Other bills target online advertising, algorithms, and electronic repair.
The push to regulate big tech companies has seen declining support among both Republicans and Democrats, likely due to more pressing economic issues like inflation and strained supply chains. But proponents are hopeful that at least one legislative proposal will pass before the midterm elections.
In a new paper, I parse out the worst tech bills introduced in the 117th Congress. Here are few bills included in the list:
- The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (H.R. 3816, S. 2992), sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN), has emerged as the centerpiece of efforts to regulate big tech. It would ban “self-preferencing” by the largest digital platforms, which would prohibit a company like Amazon from promoting its in-house brand Amazon Basics. The bill is considered to have the best chance of approval, and Congress may vote on it this summer.
- The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act (H.R. 6544, S. 3538), introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), aims to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—a provision that limits the liability of websites and Internet service providers for content created by their users. Section 230 was originally intended to encourage the moderation of sexually crude and violent content, but the EARN IT Act would curb liability protection for content involving the purported exploitation of children. In the paper, I point to varying concerns that the EARN IT Act would have counterproductive effects, by undermining both privacy and prosecutions of crimes against children.
- The Fair Repair Act (H.R. 4006, S. 3830) is a lesser known proposal that would significantly impact the production of electronic devices and equipment. The bill is based upon model legislation that has been introduced in over a dozen state legislatures, propelled by the “right to repair” movement. It would force electronic manufacturers to sell their property to independent repair shops, including parts, tools, and schematics. While stemming from a self-described pro-property rights movement, the legislation turns out to be remarkably hostile to private property rights.
The full paper, “Terrible Tech Bills from the 117th Congress,” can be found here.