There’s a new bipartisan bill to establish a new federal agency tasked with regulating online platforms.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would create a new agency called the Digital Consumer Protection Commission that would be empowered to go after giant tech firms for a slew of anti-competitive behaviors and failing to protect consumer privacy.
“For years I have been trying to find ways to empower consumers against Big Tech,” Graham said in a statement Thursday. “I have heard too many stories from families who feel helpless in the face of Big Tech. Stories about children being bullied to the point of committing suicide. Human trafficking. Exploitation of minors. All the while the social media platforms look the other way.”
Specifically, the commission would ban the largest tech companies like Amazon, Meta, and Google from providing favorable treatment to their own products on their platforms to those of their competitors, otherwise called “self-preferencing.” Along with the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department, it would also be allowed to authorize merger proposals and review past ones retroactively.
On the privacy front, the agency would guarantee users the right to know when companies collect their data. It would also limit targeted advertising, restricting it to data collected from user activity on-platform and leaving out information from outside services.
“An independent regulatory commission tasked with challenging the monopolistic power of Big Tech companies will not only provide the additional oversight needed to keep the industry in check, but also complement the work of our existing regulatory bodies,” Nicole Gill, Accountable Tech executive director and co-founder, said in a statement to The Verge on Wednesday.
The bill also targets national security risks posed by foreign ownership of tech platforms, like TikTok and its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance. If approved, the agency would require platforms like TikTok to sell their companies to an American owner or at least have a US-based subsidiary.
Warren’s helped start new agencies before. Following the 2008 financial crisis, she championed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency was later authorized by the Dodd-Frank Act, which implemented an array of Wall Street reforms in 2010.
Last fall, Graham first mentioned that he was working on a bill to install a “regulatory environment with teeth” to police social media companies. Following OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s appearance before Congress in May, lawmakers like Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) have proposed bills to create a new agency to regulate artificial intelligence. Bennet previously backed an agency similar to the one proposed by Graham and Warren.
At this point, the senators don’t have any other co-sponsors on the bill, so they’ll need to win over more lawmakers and push for a hearing before it has a chance to pass.
“For too long, giant tech companies have exploited consumers’ data, invaded Americans’ privacy, threatened our national security, and stomped out competition in our economy,” Warren said in a statement Thursday. “This bipartisan bill would create a new tech regulator and it makes clear that reining in Big Tech platforms is a top priority on both sides of the aisle.”