President Biden: Big Tech Is Experimenting on Children for Profit

President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference on the eve of his first year in office, from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 19, 2022.
President Joe Biden (Image credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to launch a sweeping attack on Big Tech, saying the government needs to step in.

In his op-ed for the newspaper (opens in new tab), the president took aim at “some” Big Tech players — he did not name names — saying they “exploit our most personal data, deepen extremism and polarization in our country, tilt our economy’s playing field, violate the civil rights of women and minorities, and even put our children at risk.”

Biden said social-media companies have to be held accountable "for the experiment they are running on our children for profit.”

His predecessor, Donald Trump, also wanted to crack down on social media and reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the provision that makes users of social-media platforms immune from civil liability for third-party content, but that was primarily over what he saw as its bias against him and censorship of conservative speech.

Also: Trump Preps Social Media Executive Order

Biden blamed the internet for allowing “abusive and even criminal conduct, like cyberstalking, child sexual exploitation, nonconsensual pornography and sales of dangerous drugs.”

As for their business practices, he said Big Tech had “elbowed mom-and-pop businesses out from their platforms, disadvantaged them, or charged them outlandish prices, making it harder for them to compete and grow, and thereby stifling innovation.”

The president outlined a three-pronged approach to reform: 1) federal privacy protections, including the government preventing some kinds of data collection; 2) reforming Section 230; and 3) preventing Big Tech companies from getting too big.

Biden called for bipartisan congressional action. “It’s time to walk the walk and get something done.”

At least on the issues of federal privacy legislation and Section 230 reform, the president had a supporter in new House Energy & Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), though she suggested a previous executive order on the Big Tech issue was out of bounds.

In a statement responding to Biden’s op-ed, she said: “President Biden is correct to acknowledge the risks posed by Big Tech for Americans. Rather than trying to address these harms unilaterally through executive action and contorting authority, the administration needs to work with Congress to enact comprehensive privacy protections through one national privacy standard that protects all Americans, especially our kids.”

McMorris Rodgers also said she would continue to look for a way to reform Section 230 to “ensure Big Tech is encouraging more free speech on their platforms, not less.” ■

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.