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Sen. Mark Warner: ‘Let’s Restart Antitrust’ Tech Legislation

 |  January 10, 2023

By Jon Swartz, MarketWatch

Sen. Mark Warner admits he’s “very frustrated” by the continued absence of major antitrust tech law, but he’s also confident kids safety protections online could be a bipartisan building block this year for a “breakthrough.”

“Let’s restart antitrust,” Warner, D., Va., told MarketWatch on Monday. “Lessons were learned [in 2022] and we can break through with kids legislation. Can’t we at least agree on kids safety?”

That, in turn, would induce “a series of efforts” by federal lawmakers on popular issues such as data portability and interoperability, putting a stop to self-preferencing of products and services by Apple Inc. (AAPL), Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL) (GOOGL) Google, and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) on their gigantic digital stores, and changes to Section 230, which shields social-media companies from third-party content that appears on their platforms.

“Section 230 has been this vast, get-out-of-jail free card,” Warner said, protecting companies from legal action even if the content violates civil rights protections, amounts to stalking or even leads to wrongful death claims. [Warner has authored a bill that would tweak Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from such immunity.]

What is more, the former telecom executive and venture capitalist did not rule out the possibility of a handful of bills, including antitrust bills from the likes of Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D., Minn.; Richard Blumenthal, D., Conn.; and Marsha Blackburn, R., Tenn., from being modified and resurfaced in the 118th Congress.

While acknowledging a dysfunctional House could complicate all legislation, Warner said it could also present opportunities for bipartisan topics like kids safety and national security around the threat from China.

Warner’s general sense of frustration is the byproduct of Congress’s inability to pass substantive legislation into law despite years of finger-wagging hearings, tissue-thin promises from tech executives, and groundbreaking laws passed overseas and in progressive states like California.

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