Big Tech’s Democratic Critics Discuss Ways to Strike Back With White House

Congressional Democrats have begun discussions with the White House on ways to crack down on Big Tech including making social media companies accountable for the spread of disinformation on matters such as the U.S. Capitol riot and addressing the abuse of market power to harm corporate rivals, Reuters informed.

The conversations, described by a lawmaker and congressional aides, have included the contentious topic of what to do with a measure called Section 230, part of a 1996 law called the Communications Decency Act, that shields social media platforms from lawsuits over much of the content posted by users.

Democratic President Joe Biden as a candidate last year called for revoking Section 230, and his Republican predecessor Donald Trump unsuccessfully pressed Congress to repeal it.

Many lawmakers in recent years have called for laws and regulations to rein in dominant tech companies such as Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google, Inc and Apple Inc. Democratic lawmakers also have expressed alarm over social media’s role in the lead-up to a pro-Trump mob’s Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The conversations between lawmakers and Biden aides represent the first sign that the White House has begun actively getting involved in considering how to take on Big Tech. They also show how lawmakers are trying to get Biden staffers on board as part of the lengthy lawmaking process on a wide range of issues. Biden took office on Jan. 20.

Democratic Representative Tom Malinowski, a member of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said he has begun conversations with the White House on how to hold large social media platforms accountable for amplifying radicalizing content that triggers violence.

Malinowski said he discussed legislation he sponsored last year that would hold these companies legally liable if they actively promote content, using algorithms designed to increase profits and readership, that leads to violence.

“This is a priority for me, and we have had preliminary conversations with the White House on a path forward,” Malinowski said.

Malinowski’s legislation would amend but not revoke Section 230.

Several congressional aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said members of Biden’s team are listening to concerns raised by lawmakers on issues involving Big Tech, asking questions and participating in conversations about potential future action. The White House declined comment on these discussions.

Democratic Representative David Cicilline, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, has raised with the White House the topic of more stringent antitrust enforcement against Big Tech, a source familiar with the matter said. A Cicilline spokesman declined comment.

Based on Cicilline’s previous public comments, that could mean he actively pursues legislation based on recommendations from his subcommittee’s 400-page October report into the state of competition in the digital economy including business practices of Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

Some antitrust experts said this also could mean broadening the Justice Department’s October lawsuit that accused Google of misusing its market power to crush rivals.

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