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Klobuchar calls on Congress to get serious on tech reform

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‘Our laws shouldn’t remain stagnant as they were 25 years ago’

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) plotted out a multi-pronged approach to taking on the power of dominant tech firms like Facebook and Google in a speech for a Verge Live event Monday. In her remarks, Klobuchar called for the passage of legislation addressing issues from competition to data privacy and content moderation.

“We need to be asking more from Big Tech companies, not less,” Klobuchar said in her speech Monday. “We have seen that how they operate has real life effects on the safety and civil rights for all of us as well as on our democracy. Holding them accountable for problems that can lead to real-world harm is critical to our success.”

Klobuchar leads the Senate’s top antitrust subcommittee, positioning the Minnesota Democrat as one of the most important legislators in the debate over tech reform. Last month, she introduced a sweeping bill to revamp US antitrust enforcement. Klobuchar’s Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act would provide law enforcement with more resources to take competition cases to court.

“Our laws shouldn’t remain stagnant as they were 25 years ago,” Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar stopped short of saying that companies like Facebook and Google should be broken up, although she did describe the antitrust action against Bell as broadly successful. Still, it’s unclear how aggressively congressional Democrats will push for antitrust action as part of the broader effort to regulate tech companies.

“Do we want better safeguards on tech platforms? Yes. Increased transparency? Yes. Nondiscrimination rules? Yes,” Klobuchar said Monday. “I would say much of this we can do with rules of the road we put in place through legislation which until now and this year wasn’t even seriously being considered.”

Last week, top antitrust lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee met for a hearing on proposals to reform US antitrust law as it’s applied to tech companies. Outside of requiring tech firms to make their platforms interoperable, some House Democrats are considering a Glass-Steagall for the internet. A measure like that would prohibit tech companies from running a platform while developing their own products or other services. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), the top Republican on the subcommittee, has come out against the idea.

In the Monday speech, Klobuchar also touted bills that she introduced in previous years, including measures aimed at protecting user data privacy. In 2018, Klobuchar put out the Social Media Privacy and Consumer Rights Act that would force big tech companies to notify users of security breaches within 72 hours. It would also define information like emails, phone numbers, and health data as “sensitive” information, imposing harsher penalties if the data is breached.