A new Senate bill would create a federal agency to police Americans’ speech for “misinformation” and “hate speech” if passed by the Congress.
The bill was brought forth by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and is dubbed the Digital Platform Commission Act (DPCA). As the senator announced, the legislation would “create an expert federal body empowered to provide comprehensive, sector-specific regulation of digital platforms to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.”
“The new Federal Digital Platform Commission would have the mandate, jurisdiction, and broad set of tools to develop and enforce thoughtful guardrails for a sector that has been left for too long to write its own rules, with serious consequences for everything from teen mental health to disinformation to anticompetitve practices that have hurt small businesses,” the senator argued.
“As a country, we should take pride that most of the world’s leading tech companies were founded in America. But they aren’t start-ups anymore. Today they rank among the most powerful companies in human history. It’s past time for a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to regulating digital platforms that have amassed extraordinary power over our economy, society, and democracy,” said Bennet. “We don’t have to choose between letting digital platforms write their own rules, allowing competitors like China and the E.U. write those rules, or leaving it to politicians in Congress. We should follow the long precedent in American history of empowering an expert body to protect the public interest through common sense rules and oversight for complex and powerful sectors of the economy.”
The new Federal Digital Platform Commission would have five commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It would be “staffed by experts with a background in areas such as computer science, software development, and technology policy.”
The Commission would have “a broad mandate to promote the public interest, with specific directives to protect consumers, promote competition, and assure the fairness and safety of algorithms on digital platforms, among other areas,” the senator’s statement added. “To fulfill its mandate, the Commission would have the authority to promulgate rules, impose civil penalties, hold hearings, conduct investigations, and support research. It could also designate ‘systemically important digital platforms’ subject to additional oversight, regulation, and merger review.”
The Digital Platform Commission Act has garnered support from various experts and organizations. Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler commends the bill for modernizing national policies and introducing an agile regulatory model suitable for the digital age. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser emphasizes the need for federal action and a regulatory framework to protect citizens in the online world. Public Knowledge, a nonprofit organization, endorses the bill as a consumer-centered approach to holding online platforms accountable. Other supporters include the Center for Humane Technology, communication and technology policy experts from Georgetown University and Yale School of Management, and various advocacy groups concerned with the impact of digital platforms on democracy, youth, and public health.
“The Digital Platform Commission Act builds the capacity a 21st century democracy needs to align our rapidly changing digital landscape