Bipartisan Senate group pushes Schumer for Big Tech watchdog agency

A bipartisan group of senators called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday to help create an independent agency to regulate major technology companies, reviving a push from last year.

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) argued in a letter to Schumer that the current moment “requires a new federal agency to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.”

Bennet and Welch introduced legislation to establish a commission to oversee digital platforms last May, which was followed by a similar proposal from Warren and Graham in July.

In Tuesday’s letter, the four senators emphasized the federal government’s previous struggles to regulate large tech companies, especially with the rise of social media, in calling for a new agency.

“Piecemeal efforts to regulate technology have failed,” they wrote. “Over the past fifteen years, social media platforms have wreaked havoc on our children’s mental health, undermined user privacy, and distorted market incentives.”

“Now, these same companies stand to benefit from the rapid development and deployment of [artificial intelligence],” the senators added.

Schumer has led efforts to tackle artificial intelligence (AI) in the Senate, holding several AI Insight Forums in recent months to help lawmakers better understand the rapidly developing technology and consider potential regulations.

“Your fora have made clear that Congress must regulate AI on behalf of the American people,” the bipartisan group said. “But it would be a mistake to fixate on AI and ignore the broader threats posed by this industry as a whole. Narrow legislative fixes will not solve problems endemic to the digital sector.”

“When confronted with the emergence of complex, risk-prone industries, Congress has often elected to create regulatory bodies to address the challenges facing the American people,” they continued. “The same approach is necessary here.”

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