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Klobuchar Weighs in on CAP’s New Report on Tech Regulation

November 22, 2021 by Kate Michael
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaking on regulating Big Tech.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has been on a crusade for swift and sweeping reform of Big Tech platforms, introducing a number of bills and even publishing a book titled “Antitrust” that looks at the history of policy toward trusts and monopolies and details how Big Tech is bad for consumer choice and competition. 

“We are making antitrust cool again,” she told the Center for American Progress, joining the liberal public policy research and advocacy organization at a discussion of its recently released report proposing enhanced oversight and regulation for some technology platforms. “Congress has invested deeply in what gatekeepers mean for our economy and how to address them.”

Chair of the Senate Committee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar claims she cut her teeth on the issues as a telecommunications lawyer in the private sector, which helped her to understand the need to foster a tech sector that can innovate with guardrails that can protect.

“For too long our government has been telling American consumers … ‘We’ve got this.’ But we just simply can’t say ‘Hands off’ to 20% of the economy,” she insisted. 

Not only does she believe that removing barriers to competition can help level the playing field, but she also agrees with CAP that regulations are needed for consumer protection and privacy.

“We’ve got monopolies in four different areas,” she ticked off Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon, “[that have] contributed to huge problems… collect enormous info about us and our activities… and still we just sit.”

CAP’s newly released report proposes a regulatory framework to address harms, promote equitable growth, and protect the public interest online. It was advanced after the pandemic shed a light on the growing effect distance-learning, online work, digital entertainment, and online social interactions could have on American lives and livelihoods. 

“[These] harms are the result of business decisions and market failures, regulatory gaps, and enforcement oversights, which have together produced an environment in which harmful and predatory practices among online services are industry standards,” reads the report’s introduction. 

Among its proposals, the report advocates for prohibitions of “highly problematic practices” to be codified, and it proposes a new test to identify digital gatekeepers in the U.S. while creating a possible regulatory tier specifically for online infrastructure companies. 

“You simply can’t have gatekeeper platforms,” Klobuchar agreed, though she did suggest a market approach in addition to regulation.  “Tech is supposed to be disruptive. Competition is about disruption.”

Putting forward her own solutions for competition policy, Klobuchar first demanded resources — “You can’t take on the biggest companies the world has ever known with bandaids and duct tape,” she said — before pushing for updated competition laws and new standards on mergers. Some recent bills she has introduced to these ends include a bill cosponsored by Tom Cotton, R-Ark., that aims to make it more difficult for Big Tech to acquire rival companies and would put the onus on them to prove that proposed mergers aren’t anticompetitive. 

Another, co-authored by Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, prohibits Big Tech platforms from giving their own products and services preferential treatment. 

“We’re in a class of our own not having a federal data protection law,” Klobuchar admitted in another area of proposed Big Tech reform, the erosion of security privacy. She lamented predatory data practices and “turning personal privacy into a personal commodity to manipulate markets.”

“The public is much more focused on this than they were in the past,” she said, offering preliminary solutions like upgrading federal and children’s privacy laws and allowing outside researchers to review Big Tech algorithms. 

“We also need to look at the immunity companies have had since the internet started.” 

Kate can be reached at [email protected]

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