“What I think people fail to realize is that we have never put any meaningful regulations on tech companies. That may have made sense when Google and Facebook were still in garages, but these are very sophisticated actors that are more than capable of dealing with a modest compliance framework,” Blackburn said in prepared remarks to the Club for Growth’s Foundation Tech Colloquium on Saturday.
Blackburn delivered an outline of how and why Congress should enact a wide-ranging technology policy platform to solve many of the issues relating to privacy, the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), the Open App Markets Act, cryptocurrency, competitiveness with China, government pressure to censor free speech (e.g. Hunter Biden’s laptop), and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
The Tennessee conservative will have significant sway over technology policy not only due to her status as a member of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees but also because of her decades of experience in technology policy.
Blackburn said that Congress ought to strike a balance that would rein in the excesses of Big Tech, which includes censorship, while allowing for innovation and competition to flourish.
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“Consumers and regulators alike are stuck in a situation where we no longer trust tech companies, but we can’t live our lives without them,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn, who produced substantial technology legislation, such as the BROWSER Act in the House, took her tech experience to the Senate in 2019 to create the bipartisan Technology Task Force on the Judiciary Committee. The task force looked at potential bipartisan solutions to platform regulation and social media harms.
Blackburn said that a federal privacy standard must have preemption, or “one set of rules for the entire internet ecosystem.” She said that the privacy standard needs to clarify what businesses can and cannot do with customer data. Congress needs to modernize the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), noting that the agency has not been reauthorized since the 1990s.
Ongoing Legislative Solutions
Blackburn said she remains optimistic that Congress can still pass the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), a bill to empower parents to take control over children’s online experiences to protect their health and well-being, and the Open App Markets Act, a bill that would break up the Apple and Google app store duopoly.
Blackburn said she and Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) have been working to educate lawmakers on the latest developments on cryptocurrency, bitcoin, and regulations. She cautioned that the collapse and ongoing legal battles surrounding the digital currency exchange FTX and disgraced former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried will make legislative solutions less likely. Instead, the focus will be on oversight. However, she cautioned that the farm bill may be a vehicle for a cryptocurrency legislative solution.
Blackburn said she sponsored the Say No to the Silk Road Act, which would set new standards and guidelines for China’s central bank digital currency, or the Digital Yuan.
She said she sponsored the Secure Equipment Act, which is now public law. The bill directs the FCC to stop authorizing phones, tablets, and other devices to operate in the U.S. when the manufacturer may pose as a national security threat.
Section 230 and Censorship
Blackburn said of the Twitter Files revelations, “If anything, it was worse because they saw just how normalized the culture of government-driven censorship had become in Silicon Valley.”
“You can rest assured that I will not allow any legislation that increases censorship to move forward in Congress,” she said.
Blackburn said she has been working with lawmakers on bipartisan proposals that would narrow the scope of the landmark intermediary liability law that allows Meta to “manipulate you and your children with reckless regard.”
Blackburn said that the American people will continually expect Congress to find the “balance” between solving these tech issues while not stifling innovation. However, she noted that Americans themselves will serve as the groundswell of popular support that will lead to these solutions becoming law.
She elaborated, “It’s not going to be congressional subpoenas that bring tech companies to the table. Their customers are going to force them there.”
Sean Moran is a policy reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.