A paper recently obtained by Axios describes 20 different ways that Democrats plan to address the problems posed by Silicon Valley tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google. In particular, the Democrats want to put in place a “duty to determine the origin of posts and/or accounts,” effectively killing anonymity online.
A report from Axios claims that a policy paper obtained from Senator Mark Warner’s office outlines 20 different ways for Democrats to address the problems posed by large tech companies, the proposed ideas include everything from assigning a price to individual user data to the creation and funding of media literacy programs to better educate the public about the dangers of Silicon Valley tech firms.
The paper was reportedly prepared by the staff of Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) and was circulated within tech policy circles for the past few weeks. Axios notes that the chances of Democrats enacting any of these policies in the short term is slim but if there is a shift in control of Congress in November, some of these suggestions may suddenly become viable. According to the papers, the three biggest areas that Democrats are focusing on are combating disinformation (fighting fake news), protecting user privacy and promoting further competition in the tech industry.
Axios states that the paper suggests a new federally funded media literacy program to educate consumers on how to sort through information online, the paper also claims that the military and intelligence communities are not prepared for foreign information operations and suggests various methods to increase their capabilities in these fields. The paper further suggests making it a requirement that web platforms label bot accounts or do a better job at identifying authentic accounts, with the FTC enforcing these rules.
Another idea suggested in the paper is to make online platforms legally liable for claims such as “defamation, invasion of privacy, false light, and public disclosure of private facts.” This would mean that platforms such as Facebook or Twitter would be liable for doctored video or audio on their platform designed to defame an individual. The paper also suggests something called an “essential facility” label which would be attached to some popular tech products such as Google Maps. This would require that these productions provide “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms and not engage in “self-dealing or preferential conduct.”
The document also proposes the idea of copying the E.U. GDPR privacy laws for the U.S., these laws provide users with greater ability to consent to the use of their data and further recourse if their data is used without their consent. The paper also suggests that in order to increase visibility into competition, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook could put a monetary value on individual users data.
The paper does note that many of these suggestions are quite complicated and will lead to many questions: “In many cases there may be flaws in each proposal that may undercut the goal the proposal is trying achieve, or pose a political problem that simply can’t be overcome at this time.”
The paper states: “The size and reach of these platforms demand that we ensure proper oversight, transparency and effective management of technologies that in large measure undergird our social lives, our economy, and our politics. The hope is that the ideas enclosed here stir the pot and spark a wider discussion — among policymakers, stakeholders, and civil society groups — on the appropriate trajectory of technology policy in the coming years.” However, the paper has not dealt with other suggestions such as breaking up Big Tech companies or regulating them as utilities.
Read the full paper below:
Platform Policy Paper on Scribd