Proposed US regulation of big tech would protect user privacy, hold platforms accountable for defamation & ‘deep fakes’

A new policy paper from the office of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) suggests regulations should be placed on tech companies, in an effort to curb data breaches and the proliferation of fake news.

The policy paper was obtained by Axios, which revealed Warner’s proposal would not break up any of the largest tech companies, as some critics have said the government should do.

Instead, the senator views regulation focused on combating disinformation, protecting user privacy, and promoting competition in the tech space as the best approach.

Among the proposals in the paper is a plan to require web platforms to make a greater effort to identify authentic accounts. Warner’s plan suggests the Federal Trade Commission could impose sanctions on companies who do not comply.

The policy paper also suggests the U.S. government could draft laws akin to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, a strong digital privacy law that took effect in May. The start of GDPR enforcement has taken a toll on companies who handle lucrative personally identifiable information, with companies like Facebook and Twitter warning that more effects are to come in the near future.

Another key component of Warner’s proposal would make platforms potentially liable for claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, and more. It also singles out edited or completely fabricated videos — sometimes known as “deep fakes” — that could convince users of things that are not true.

OWI Insight: Warner serves as the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, so he has the clout to push for federal action to curb fake news and foreign tampering in U.S. elections via social media. However, with Republicans controlling the House, the Senate and the presidency, it’s unlikely that the proposals from Warner, a Democrat, would gain much traction in the current session. Instead, Warner’s proposed regulations might see more support after November, if his party were to win back either the House or Senate (or both).