Tech legislation's 2022 scorecard
A bevy of proposals to limit Big Tech firms' power gave up their last gasp Monday night as Congress released the text of its year-end spending bill.
Driving the news: The spending bill, known as the omnibus, was the final ticket out of the 117th Congress to the president's desk. But major tech-related bills, including two that supporters were fiercely pushing for, failed to make it in.
The big picture: Two years ago, as Democrats took control of Congress and the White House, a window opened for action against the giant tech companies. But very few new laws made it through.
- The race to the finish line that ultimately ended in defeat this Congress for the biggest bills shows how hard it is for legislators to find agreement on regulating tech firms, even though many in both parties see them as abusive monopolies.
- Observers blame aggressive industry lobbying, partisan divisions and substantive disagreements over the best approach.
Details: This month, supporters were pinning their hopes on the Open App Markets Act and the Kids Online Safety Act for inclusion in one of the year-end must-pass legislative packages.
- The Open App Markets Act would have forced Apple and Google to give app developers more rights in their app stores, including the ability to "side-load" apps directly onto phones, surpassing approval and a commission charge.
- The Kids Online Safety Act would have required platforms to guard kids from harmful content using new features and safeguards and to make privacy settings "on" by default for children.
Flashback: Lawmakers started this Congress with an ambitious tech agenda.
- They were buoyed by a sweeping House Judiciary committee report that alleged anticompetitive practices by tech companies. They had allies in litigious antitrust chiefs at the DOJ and FTC. They channeled growing concern over tech's impacts on user privacy and kids' mental health.
Yes, but: Only a few pieces of notable legislation related to tech and telecommunications made it to the finish line.
- The omnibus bill includes a provision to ban TikTok on government devices.
- A version of the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act, which raises the cost of merger filing fees for transactions of $5 billion or more, was included, though the boost in funds won't be allocated until 2024.
- Another bill in the omnibus is The INFORM Act, aimed at deterring online sales of counterfeit and stolen goods and supported by companies like Amazon and Etsy.
- The Chips and Science Act, a $280 billion package that aims to boost the domestic chip-making industry and scientific research, won approval in July.
- The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed a year ago, allocated $65 million for broadband internet deployment.
- Earlier this month President Biden signed The Safe Connections Act, which allows survivors of domestic abuse to easily separate their cell phone plans from those of abusers.
Be smart: There are many more tech bills on this Congress' cutting room floor.
- Past Congresses have never moved a national privacy law to the finish line, and this Congress also failed to pass one.
- Of the original fleet of tech antitrust bills the House Judiciary Committee approved in June 2021, the Merger Filing Fee measure is the only survivor.
Between the lines: The threat of new rules in the U.S., combined with an increasingly onerous regulatory environment in Europe, has companies re-thinking their policies around competitors, children's privacy, algorithmic transparency and more.
What to watch: State legislatures across the country are busier than ever, passing tech-related bills on content moderation, kids' privacy, antitrust concerns, and the use of artificial intelligence and biometric data.