States Like Florida, Not Congress, May Pose The Greatest Menace To Tech Corporations
Despite calls for more regulation of the tech industry, Congress has not yet passed major laws, leaving states to take steps to limit the power and influence of tech companies.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers have enacted and enacted privacy, antitrust, and content moderation laws, while attorneys general have raised a number of legal challenges over alleged anti-competitive business practices.
“With a small vacuum at the federal level, the states want to intervene, be it in the moderation of content, in speaking on platforms, in the regulation of antitrust and anticompetitive behavior or in data protection,” said April Doss, executive director of the Georgetown University Institute for technology law and policy, told the Protocol last week.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law in May banning tech companies from banning or suspending political candidates in the state, and fines up to $ 250,000 per day if a candidate leaves the platform.
The law also makes social media platforms accountable for certain content moderation decisions, which allows Floridians to sue tech companies for banning or banning their accounts.
“We have taken steps to ensure that ‘We the People’ – real Floridians across the Sunshine State – receive protection from the Silicon Valley elites,” DeSantis said in a press release.
Although the bill is currently being challenged in federal court, similar bills have been tabled in Republican parliaments across the country.
Texas lawmakers earlier this month tabled a bill, backed by Governor Greg Abbot, aimed at classifying social media companies as “common carriers” and making them subject to similar regulations to public utilities such as telephone services. The bill reflects a legal challenge by Google proposed by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost in June attempting to declare the tech giant a public utility company, an argument that Judge Clarence Thomas has made might be valid.
Republican governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, vetoed a bill passed by state lawmakers in March that would have severely curtailed content moderation practices by tech companies. If passed, the law would have required social media platforms to notify users of the moderation of their speech, offer an appeal process for users to challenge moderation decisions, and publish their moderation guidelines.
Kentucky lawmakers proposed law in January that removes liability protection from social media companies that censor certain types of speech. Lawmakers in Oklahoma and Arkansas have also passed laws designed to curb perceived political censorship, even though the bills were not passed.
Attorneys-general have faced Big Tech with several antitrust challenges, with Google alone currently facing four complaints from states over alleged anti-competitive behavior.
More than 30 Utah attorneys general, led by Sean Reyes, sued the tech giant in July for alleged anti-competitive tactics on its Google Play Store, such as: A similar complaint from app developers against Apple was resolved Thursday, with the tech company agreeing to change some of its business practices.
“Utah and the rest of our coalition are fighting back to protect our citizens,” Reyes said in a statement announcing the complaint.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit in December 2020 alleging Google illegally maintained a monopoly in the digital advertising markets. Paxton previously led a bipartisan investigation involving 48 attorneys general into the search giant’s business practices.
The Justice Department was joined by eleven Republican attorneys general in an October 2020 complaint alleging that Google maintained a monopoly by manipulating search results and excluding competitors in search advertising. Another December 2020 lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James and 37 other attorneys general alleged that Google had prioritized its own services in its search results.
The states also unsuccessfully sued Facebook for taking over WhatsApp and Instagram, with the case closed in June. Washington, DC, Attorney General Karl Racine filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon in May for controlling retail prices.
State lawmakers have perhaps been most successful in enacting data protection laws that limit the ability of technology companies to collect personal information. California was the first state to pass important data protection laws, including the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2018.
The law granted Californians a host of new privacy rights and imposed significant regulations on the data collection practices of technology platforms. Californians were given additional insight into data collection policies, the right to opt out of companies selling their personal information, and the right to delete certain information technology companies that were collected.
Virginia passed a similar law in March, the Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA). The law “grants consumers the right to access, correct, delete, obtain a copy and opt out of processing personal data for the purposes of targeted advertising,” the official summary reads.
The Colorado Privacy Act, signed by Governor Jared Polis in July, follows a framework similar to the CCPA and CDPA, allowing consumers to opt out of processing their data for sale or targeted advertising, and giving consumers the right to data collected access or remove them.
What about the congress?
Legislators on Capitol Hill have often raised concerns about the power and influence of the tech industry, particularly when it comes to content moderation, but have not yet passed substantive legislation.
The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee last tabled six bills in June aimed at combating alleged anti-competitive business practices by technology platforms. These bills, backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, target exclusive data guidelines, monopoly takeovers and discrimination against competitors.
Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Amy Klobuchar and Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn tabled a bill earlier this month aimed at restricting alleged anti-competitive practices by Google and Apple in their app stores.
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