Sen. Bennett’s algorithm cops seen as ‘long shot’

From Cat Zakrzewski’s “Senator to introduce bill giving Big Tech its own federal watchdog” posted Thursday by the Washington Post:

Throughout history, Congress has established expert agencies to oversee important parts of the American economy — from agriculture to drugs to railroads. Now amid growing concerns about the power of Silicon Valley, a Democratic senator suggests reforming current institutions isn’t enough: a new federal watchdog is needed to regulate the country’s most influential tech companies.

Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) today will introduce the Digital Platform Commission Act, a bill to establish a new five-person commission responsible for protecting consumers in the age of Big Tech. According to proposed text viewed exclusively by The Washington Post, the agency would have the power to interrogate the algorithms powering major tech platforms, and to set new rules to ensure the biggest companies are transparent about how they handle thorny decisions around content moderation on their platforms.

“We need an agency with expertise to have a thoughtful approach here,” he said…

The commission would be tasked with creating rules to ensure large tech companies are transparent about their content moderation rules, as well as requirements for regular public risk assessments about the violent or hateful content circulating on their services. It would establish a “Code Council” made up of technologists and public interest experts to create technical standards and policies for the commission to consider, as well as a Research Office that would conduct internal research and coordinate with outside academics to study the companies…

The proposal is a long shot in a Senate where Democrats have a fragile 50-50 majority — and Republicans have historically been wary of bills that would create new regulatory bodies. Though the legislation aims to address a wide range of harms, any government effort to force greater transparency of companies’ content moderation practices and algorithms could raise free speech concerns under the First Amendment.

My take: The lack of a Republican co-sponsor was a dead giveaway.

6 Comments

  1. Fred Stein said:
    Regardless of politics, nearly no one in Washington (or NYC or EU for that matter) understands technology, or more accurately the internet.

    A perfect example is the push to force Apple to open its platforms which have consumer protections built in. Oversight of algorithms seems insane. What next, an FDA like approval for Apple’s 250,000 APIs?

    They understand that the internet has become essential to our lives and our commerce. They understand that we have potentially dangerous concentrations of power and wealth. They only react to problem du jour, not to core issues of safety and privacy.

    2
    May 12, 2022
  2. Steven Philips said:
    Public Interest “experts” ???
    And the day congress appoints actual experts to ANY commission …!
    Congressional sins of commission.

    2
    May 12, 2022
  3. Lalit Jagtap said:
    As technologist I agree that we need some kind of “watchdog institution” to review Algorithm of social platforms. The speed and scale of technology innovation and adaption, calls for some kind of “FAA” like watchdog body. I recommend this book “Weapons of Math Destruction” about how algorithms can harm.

    1
    May 12, 2022
  4. Lalit Jagtap said:
    As technologist I agree that we need some kind of “watchdog institution” to review Algorithm of special of social platforms. The speed and scale of technology innovation and adaption, definitely calls for some kind of “FAA” like watchdog body. I recommend this book “Weapons of Math Destruction” about how algorithms can harm.

    0
    May 12, 2022
  5. Michael Goldfeder said:
    Another do nothing commission appointed by Dopes in Congress. This could all be better handled more adeptly and efficiently by a high school IT class.

    0
    May 12, 2022

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