Dec 9, 2021 - Technology

The Biden administration's tightrope act on tech

Photo illustration of a blurry President Biden with the EU stars in the background
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo made waves in Washington when she criticized Europe's planned regulations of tech companies, despite the White House's interests in reining in the sector at home.

Why it matters: The incident reveals the balancing act the Biden administration performs as it weighs talking tough on Big Tech while standing up for U.S. firms abroad.

Driving the news: In a speech Wednesday, Raimondo said she's worried about two major pieces of legislation currently being considered in the EU, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act.

  • "The EU wants to use these pieces of legislation to create a fair, transparent and safe digital space," Raimondo said. The acts aim to bolster competition and enforce content moderation in the EU.
  • "But we have serious concerns that these proposals will disproportionately impact U.S.-based tech firms and their ability to adequately serve EU customers and uphold security and privacy standards."
  • She called for EU officials to "continue listening to concerns by stakeholders before finalizing their legislation."

The intrigue: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), an outspoken critic of Big Tech, called Raimondo out in a tweet for seemingly going off-message from the administration.

  • "This is wrong - and contradicts the President's July announcement that a 'small number of dominant internet platforms' are undermining our economy and must be held accountable," she tweeted.
  • A video clip of Raimondo's speech was praised by a Big Tech funded-group, causing consternation by some in the White House that want to see regulation of the industry.

What they're saying: A White House spokesperson tells Axios Raimondo was referring to the "standard practice" of representing American interests to foreign governments.

  • "We would all agree that is not in contradiction with our strong pro-competition approach and the actions we will continue to take," the spokesperson said, noting the president's competition executive order from July.

The other side: "In our system, the people who are the objects of the legislation are not part of making the legislation," EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters Thursday when asked if U.S. companies had a seat at the table when crafting the DMA and DSA.

  • "They are part of the hearing processes, they are part of the discussion, but it's for our legislature to make the decisions about what way to go," she said.

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