There aren’t many issues both political parties can agree on so close to an election year, but the role of technology in our society seems to be one of them. In its continued effort to investigate the practices of big technology companies, Congress conducted hearings this week to determine if these large companies are acting in the best interest of the American people.
In three separate hearings focusing on cryptocurrency, censorship
Facebook was under scrutiny for Libra, its proposed cryptocurrency. Facebook executive, David Marcus, formerly of PayPal, came under fire regarding the security of user information in light of Facebook’s previous security issues. For his part, Marcus acknowledged the company has made mistakes, but is trying to address them. “We have been working and are working hard to get better,” Marcus was quoted as saying. But, the underlying tone of Congress was one of distrust. Senator Martha McScally R-Arizona, bluntly stated, “I don’t trust you guys.”
Google faced down claims of censorship and political bias. Specifically, claims that Google is censoring and shaping our news. Senator Ted Cruz stated, “Google can, and often does, control our discourse.” Google’s vice president of global government affairs and public policy, Karan Bhatia, said the company has no political bias, explaining some content is censored, but not on the basis of politics.
The anti-trust hearing focused on the growing concern that large technology companies have a monopoly in both the areas of commerce and user information. The fear is these companies are so big that even when competitors come to market, they’re quickly acquired and brought into the fold.
In the case of Facebook — which also owns WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram, accounting for four of the top six players in social media — Senator Joe Neguse minced no words, “We have a word for that, it is called monopoly.”
The role of technology in our society is being thoughtfully considered by lawmakers, often with a heavy dose of skepticism. Hearings will continue as Congress tries to figure out how to effectively regulate an industry woven deeply into American society.
Stay tuned for updates from Parentology.