House Dems: Unchecked Big Tech Is Dangerous Threat to Democracy

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Architect of the Capitol)

Arguing that the "infection" of Big Tech algorithms threatens Democracy, a threat from companies putting profits before people, the House Energy & Commerce Committee has scheduled two Big Tech-related legislative hearings for December, meaning Democrats are serious about passing bills to reign in social media platforms, including by tightening the Sec. 230 immunity they now have from civil liability over most of the third-party content on their platforms.

The hearings are scheduled for Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 and were announced by Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Communications Subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), and Consumer Protection Subcommittee chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)

The Dec. 1 hearing--in the Communications Subcommittee--is focused on reforming Sec. 230, or what they call "recalibrating" it "in a way that better incentivizes responsible actions by tech companies." The way many in Congress are looking at is removing the liability shield entirely for certain content, COVID-19 misinformation for example.

Also: Big Tech-Targeted Senate Bill Introduced

“Social media companies continue to put profits before people by doubling down on a business model that deliberately inundates users with harmful content for the sake of ad dollars,” said Doyle of the hearings. “We can no longer allow these platforms to shirk responsibility for the real-life consequences of their actions, and I look forward to talking with experts on how to forge a path forward where platforms can be held accountable.”

The Dec. 9 hearing, in the Consumer Protection Subcommittee, will look at a number of issues including enhanced transparency, online safety and accountability in general.

"The algorithms used by Big Tech on their platforms all too often promote dangerous, divisive, and extremist content to maximize engagement and profits," said Schakowsky, adding: "These businesses are infecting our public discourse and threatening our democracy, and Congress must take up legislation that puts consumers first." ■ 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.