Big Tech & Data Privacy - Meet the Freshmen

Big Tech & Data Privacy

Big Tech & Data Privacy

High on the policy agendas of both sides of the aisle is the question of what to do about Big Tech and data privacy. As SNL’s Stefon might say, this one has it all: censorship (a hot button issue on the Right), antitrust implications (which is fundamental to Democrats’ economic theory), privacy concerns, and democracy-threatening disinformation.

At the center of the debate is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). The CDA stoked controversy when it was passed in 1996, as it raised concerns of censorship and restrictions on free speech. However, tucked inside the CDA was a provision that received little attention at the time. Section 230 protects publishers, platforms, web hosts, and other intermediaries from any legal exposure that might arise from content provided by third parties.[1]

Section 230 underpins a vast swath of today’s Internet. It makes user-generated content, third-party publishers, social media networks, and marketplaces possible. On the flip side of this coin are concerns that the provision protects terrorism, cyber-stalking, child abuse, and dangerous disinformation.

2022 saw an array of policy proposals to address the issue. The US Department of Justice has proposed amending Section 230 with carve-outs to deter malicious actors.[2] In May, Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO.) introduced the Digital Platform Commission Act, which would create a new federal oversight agency to regulate social media companies and protect consumers.[3] Later in the summer, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), introduced the American Innovation & Choice Online Act, aimed at breaking up anti-competitive behaviors on the part of tech giants.[4]

These bills failed to see a floor vote, and the 118th Congress could pick up the issue–wrangling with the question of today’s internet landscape, online safety, and how to resolve questions of Constitutionally protected personal freedoms.


[1] “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, accessed November 7, 2022, available at https://www.eff.org/issues/cda230.

[2] “Department of Justice’s Review of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996,” US Department of Justice Archives, accessed November 7, 2022, available at https://www.justice.gov/archives/ag/department-justice-s-review-section-230-communications-decency-act-1996.

[3] Cat Zakrzewski, “Senator introduces bill giving Big Tech its own federal watchdog,” Washington Post, May 12, 2022, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/05/12/michael-bennet-big-tech-regulator/.

[4] Adam Conner & Erin Simpson, “Executive Summary: Evaluating 2 Tech Antitrust Bills to Restore Competition Online,” Center for American Progress, June 7, 2022, available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/executive-summary-evaluating-2-tech-antitrust-bills-to-restore-competition-online/.

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