January 24, 2024
“Today’s challenge calls for a dedicated and nimble agency that is able to keep measured pace with the speed of innovation, supporting safe development without stifling it.”
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) wrote to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to call for a new independent federal agency to oversee and regulate large technology firms. The senators’ call follows Senate AI Insight Forums organized by Leader Schumer and others, which underscored the need for a comprehensive approach to artificial intelligence (AI) and the Big Tech companies currently dominating the sector.
“Over the past fifteen years, social media platforms have wreaked havoc on our children’s mental health, undermined user privacy, and distorted market incentives… Big Tech companies have provided new vehicles for drug trafficking, harassment, and the sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” wrote the senators. “We believe this moment requires a new federal agency to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.”
“Now, these same companies stand to benefit from the rapid development and deployment of AI,” the senators continued. “Although this technology has the potential to improve productivity and lead to new scientific breakthroughs, AI tools also threaten to exacerbate existing harms—threatening the well-being of our children and stifling economic competition.”
In their letter, the senators highlight Congress’ history of establishing expert, sector-specific federal bodies to oversee complex sectors of the economy – including the creation of the Food and Drug Administration in 1906, the creation of the Federal Communications Commission in 1934, and the establishment of the Federal Aviation Administration in 1958.
“Your fora have made clear that Congress must regulate AI on behalf of the American people. But it would be a mistake to fixate on AI and ignore the broader threats posed by this industry as a whole,” concluded the senators. “Today’s challenge calls for a dedicated and nimble agency that is able to keep measured pace with the speed of innovation, supporting safe development without stifling it… Congress must create a new agency with the resources and meaningful enforcement authority to regulate these firms in a comprehensive, considered, and continuous manner.”
Warren, Bennet, Graham, and Welch have all introduced legislation to create a dedicated agency to regulate dominant digital platforms on behalf of the American people. Last year, Graham and Warren introduced the Digital Consumer Protection Commission Act to establish a new commission to regulate online platforms, promote competition, protect privacy, protect consumers, and strengthen our national security. In 2022, Bennet and Welch introduced the Digital Platform Commission Act, first-of-its-kind legislation to create an expert federal agency able to regulate digital platforms to protect consumers, promote competition and defend the public interest.
Senator Warren has led the fight to rein in Big Tech and strengthen antitrust enforcement to boost competition in the tech industry:
- On January 18, 2024, at a hearing of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Senator Warren questioned Emily Kilcrease, Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, on the national security risks posed by digital trade rules that allow tech companies to collect, sell, and store Americans’ data wherever is cheapest, including China.
- In December 2023, Senators Warren, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with U.S. Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to continue to reject any trade or policy proposals from Big Tech that would deem the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) to be discriminatory or an illegal trade barrier, in order to protect the administration’s shared pro-competition priorities with its European allies.
- In November 2023, Senator Warren and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), led 10 lawmakers in a letter to President Joe Biden, commending his administration’s actions countering Big Tech’s influence in trade negotiations, and asking him to replace “digital trade” provisions lobbied for by Big Tech in Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) negotiations with new language to ensure regulatory agencies and Congress are able to counter Big Tech abuses and develop a new model for digital rules in trade agreements that promotes competition and protects workers, consumers, and small businesses.
- In July 2023, Senators Warren and Graham introduced the Bipartisan Digital Consumer Protection Commission Act which would rein in Big Tech by establishing a new commission to regulate online platforms. The commission would have concurrent jurisdiction with FTC and DOJ, and would be responsible for enforcing the new statutory provisions in the bill and implementing rules to promote competition, protect privacy, protect consumers, and strengthen our national security.
- In May 2023, Senator Warren released a 22-page investigative report: Big Tech’s Big Con: Rigging Digital Trade Rules to Block Antitrust Regulation. The investigation, based on a review of previously undisclosed emails, reveals that Big Tech is using its revolving door hires to gain backdoor access to key United States Trade Representative and Commerce Department officials, undermining the Biden Administration’s promises to end rigged trade deals and protect workers, consumers, and the environment.
- In October 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Secretary Raimondo underscoring the dangers of Big Tech’s digital trade agenda, following up on a letter the lawmakers sent to Secretary Raimondo in July 2022 requesting additional information about the revolving door between Commerce and Big Tech and its potential impact on global digital trade rules.
- In July 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Secretary Raimondo raising questions about the revolving door between the Department of Commerce and Big Tech companies, and its potential impact on global digital trade rules.