Senators Elizabeth Warren and Lindsey Graham Team Up To Tackle “Cyberbullying,” “Physical, Emotional, Developmental” Online Harms and More

The proposals are part of a wider antitrust package.

Tired of censorship and surveillance?

Defend free speech and individual liberty online. Push back against Big Tech and media gatekeepers. Subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have jointly proposed a strategy to rein in Big Tech companies, reignite competition, and curb the spread of what they call “harmful” online content.

“Our legislation would guarantee common-sense safeguards for everyone who uses tech platforms. Families would have the right to protect their children from sexual exploitation, cyberbullying, and deadly drugs. Certain digital platforms have promoted the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, suicidal ideation, and eating disorders or done precious little to combat these evils; our bill would require Big Tech to mitigate such harms and allow families to seek redress if they do not,” the senators wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.

We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.

The senators aim to establish a new federal agency tasked with cracking down on what they call potential harms originating from tech behemoths, such as Amazon, Google, Meta, and beyond, encompassing everything from social media to ecommerce and artificial intelligence.

Warren and Graham’s collaborative venture comes in response to mounting concerns about the overreach of Big Tech, which they argue have shown a pattern of flouting privacy, threatening national security, and exterminating competition.

“For too long, giant tech companies have exploited consumers’ data, invaded Americans’ privacy, threatened our national security, and stomped out competition in our economy,” stated Warren.

The proposed federal watchdog, however, raises concerns about potential censorship and individual free speech infringement. Industry advocates worry that authoritative regulation could enable government manipulation and compromise the essence of an open, unbiased digital ecosystem that advances innovation and public discourse, particularly when the senators refer to “harms” such as “cyberbullying.”

“A covered entity shall mitigate the heightened risks of physical, emotional, developmental, or material harms posed by materials on, or engagement with, any platform owned or controlled by the covered entity,” the bill states.

The proposal, titled the Digital Consumer Protection Commission Act, delineates the power of this new agency to initiate lawsuits against platforms for their potential harms, establish industry regulations, investigate alleged wrongdoings, and enforce compliance. For significant violators, the commission could have the power to revoke operating licenses, marking a move towards directing the course of the digital era.

In addition to these sweeping powers, the legislation would also prescribe outright bans on certain practices. For instance, Google would be restrained from privileging its own applications in search results. The data mining practices of these companies would also be scrutinized, restricting their ability to use personal data for targeted advertising.

Moreover, the proposal addresses the increasing national security anxieties tied to dominant tech platforms like TikTok. The legislation would require such platforms to be based in the United States or be controlled by US citizens and would curb their ability to store data in designated countries.

Senator Elizabeth Warren stated the congruity of this proposed tech-focused commission with the Federal Communications Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which specifically regulate different sectors. However, clarity regarding potential collaboration or synergy with existing agencies such as the FTC and the Department of Justice remains to be seen, fostering doubt about potential jurisdictional conflicts.

In their New York Times op-ed, Senator Graham and Warren claimed, “Enough is enough. It’s time to rein in Big Tech.” Despite this, while there is some need to curb Big Tech practices, critics call for caution over measures that could undermine free expression and technological innovation in an era where they seem more intertwined than ever before. Free speech, not censorship should be promoted.

If you're tired of censorship and dystopian threats against civil liberties, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

Tired of censorship and surveillance?

Defend free speech and individual liberty online. Push back against Big Tech and media gatekeepers. Subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

Read more