President Joe Biden and Republican lawmakers last week launched yet another effort to confront thorny issues relating to Big Tech and social media platforms that have bedeviled previous administrations and Congress, but the path to progress this time around is just as murky.
In two high-profile opening salvos of the 118th Congress, the two sides showed how far apart they are starting. Aside from a glimmer of overlap on protections for minors and the market power of the big tech companies, the two sides aren’t offering much promise of legislation.
Biden used a Jan. 11 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal to call on Congress to pass federal data privacy legislation, especially to protect children, and prevent ads targeting them, modify U.S. law on social media content moderation policies, and change antitrust policy to bring more competition into the tech industry.
House Republicans took a different starting point, saying they wanted to first address what they perceive as social media bias against conservatives aided by pressure from federal officials. Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office put out a statement the same day saying Biden’s op-ed failed to mention three key Big Tech issues for Republicans: censorship, free speech and bias.
House Republican Reps. James R. Comer, R-Ky., Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, followed up the next day with proposed legislation that would stop federal officials from “using their authority or influence to promote censorship of speech or pressure social media companies to censor speech.”