US lawmaker seeks to create a commission to oversee tech companies

US Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) wants establish a federal watchdog that will focus on overseeing digital platforms and tech giants. The legislators introduced Digital Platforms Commission Act (PDF) in Congress in hopes of creating a five-man federal agency appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. They will be experts in related fields, including computer science, software development and technology policy.

The commission will be responsible for ensuring the “fairness and safety of algorithms on digital platforms” and promoting competition. It will also have the authority to conduct investigations, impose penalties and set new rules, such as those ensuring censorship transparency and consumer protection. The Commission will also create regular public risk assessment requirements for the distribution of harmful content on digital platforms.

According to the committee, a “Code Council” made up of technologists and public interest experts will set standards and policies that can be implemented. In addition, the committee will establish a research office with 20 dedicated staff to conduct research internally and to collaborate with external scholars and experts.

As mentioned in the announcement of the law, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are responsible for overseeing today’s digital platforms. However, Bennett argues that they lack the expertise and technology-driven culture needed for close supervision.

washington articles reported that Bennett’s motivation was his personal experience viewing disinformation as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as seeing how social media has affected his children. However, as the publication notes, it remains to be seen whether the legislation will pass the Senate, where Democrats have a 50-50 majority.

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