Can the Law Regulate the Internet? How Government Agencies Seek to Regulate Big Tech
In comparison to radio, television, and telephone, newer technologies – particularly those involving the internet and social media – have remained largely unregulated by federal or state governments, with the tech industry relying on self-governance even as their influence has significantly expanded. As tech plays an increasingly large role in daily life and tech companies grow in size and number, however, a legal framework to curb such power is taking shape. Can the government regulate an industry famous for rapid change? The federal government has now turned its attention to answering that question.
In the ‘90s, regulation took the form of Net Neutrality. Now, regulation is focusing on Big Tech companies like Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Facebook (now Meta), and Apple. These companies are functionally disparate, but they share the common feature of being largely free from heavy regulation. The concerns are several: user privacy, misinformation or restriction of information, and the potential of such tech giants to monopolize their respective markets.
In recent hearings, lawmakers have demonstrated continued interest in addressing these matters through legislation. Here are some of the policy proposals the federal government is considering enacting, as outlined by the Congressional Research Service (read their full legal sidebar by clicking here):
- Combating misinformation: requiring platforms to identify or ban bots or “inauthentic accounts”
- Creating independent bodies for content moderation to combat both censorship and false information
- Requiring platforms to make disclosures of advertisement funding sources
- Requiring opt-outs or opt-ins for certain uses of data
- Applying antitrust laws to Big Tech companies
There are many other regulations being considered as well, with the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission considering an investigation into certain tech companies, notably Facebook (Meta). A bipartisan group of 10 state attorneys general launched an investigation last year into Meta, focusing on the alleged harm of its Instagram platform on young users. In the coming years, this increased focus will likely see legislative changes related to technology industries as a whole, but especially those that are popular among U.S. users.
In the firm’s decades of experience, Bleakley Platt & Schmidt has witnessed the advent of the digital age and the myriad technological advances it has spurred. We recognize that change is followed by legislation and have the foresight necessary to aid tech clients as their industry reshapes society and the laws that govern it. Our firm provides counseling and representation for a wide variety of business concerns, including mergers and acquisitions, stockholder agreements, venture capital, and partnership matters. To schedule a consultation and speak with our attorneys, call us at 914-949-2700 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.