Big Tech has become a creature of the swamp | MarketingwithAnoy

Last October, the day whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before her committee, Senator Amy Klobuchar gave a sincere if depressing, summary of the impact of all this DC spending: “We have done nothing to update U.S. competition, privacy, and technology laws,” she tweeted. “Nothing. Zilch. Why? Because there are lobbyists around every corner of the Capitol, hired by technicians.”

If you want to see the power of lobbying, just look at the nomination of Gigi Sohn for the Federal Communications Commission. Although Sohn is undoubtedly qualified, the focus has been on empowering consumers. Of course, she had made enemies in companies, especially predatory telecommunications companies, that she knew of fleece customers. Those interests have succeeded block her confirmation for months. If she is not confirmed soon, a new Congress could possibly kill her nomination. With Sohn’s nomination pending, the commission is locked in with two Democrats and two Republicans.

In the meantime news reports claims that multimillion-dollar efforts from special interests – including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google – are targeting key states and vulnerable Democrats to withdraw support from Klobuchar’s reform proposals. A bitter irony: The campaign has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook and Google ads to get its point home.

We have come a long way from the days when tech entrepreneurs wanted to avoid DC. Yes, back then they were naive. They were arrogant in believing that they were somehow special and could build their business while ignoring the government. But their instinct to avoid the slime hole of American politics was admirable. Lawyers and lobbying may not have completely solved their DC problem – the consistent bad behavior of these companies makes it likely that some sanctions will arise. But these sanctions will not be as harsh or effective as the legislators, regulators and perhaps even the public wanted. A longtime employee at Hill, with whom I spoke this week, summed up the technology interests and their DC activities: “They are like everyone else.” It was not a compliment.

Time travel

Arguments about Internet regulation have raged since the mid-1990s boom that made the Internet accessible to the masses. Long before technology companies spent millions on lobbying, the debates were pretty similar to the ones we suffer from now, especially when it comes to online talk. Example: Senator James Exon’s Communications Decency Act, a proposed amendment to the Telecommunications Act that I wrote about in a 1995 Newsweek Article. A reduced version of the amendment found its way into the 1996 bill – which included the still controversial section 230.

The exon change is very wide. It could hamper communication between adults – the essence of online activity – and may not even solve the problems that children face. “It would be a mistake to drive us, in a moment of hysteria, to a solution that is unconstitutional, would hamper technology and would not even fulfill its mission,” argues Jerry Berman, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

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