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Top Democrat sees evidence that tech can become addictive

Senator Mark Warner
Sen. Mark Warner. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday he thinks there's a mounting body of evidence that some major tech products can become addictive.

Quote“I think there’s more and more evidence that there are addictive properties.”
— Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)

The bigger picture: Warner's concerns about tech have largely been focused with the potential for foreign election interference to take place online — not the public health effects of tech. But all of the conversations about the massive influence of online platforms are becoming linked.

The gritty details:

  • In a speech at a conference focused on health and technology, Warner cited the high rates at which people check their smartphones, which researchers have found can top more than 100 times a day for some users.
  • Warner also said the same tactics used by Russian operatives in their political disinformation campaigns can be used by fraudsters potentially targeting young people online.
  • He told reporters, however, that it wasn't clear that government should regulate Silicon Valley unilaterally. "I'd much rather do this in a collaborative effort with the companies but with the notion that if they don’t acknowledge this, I think public unease is going to dramatically undermine consumer’s trust," he said.
  • "This is a place where other nations are ahead of us. I think China has even kind of ... [initiatives to] try to diminish young people's addiction to some of their devices," he said.
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Zuckerberg admits Facebook "breach of trust"

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks wearing a t-shirt, with trees behind him
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg weighed in on what he called the "Cambridge Analytica situation" today in a Facebook post, saying there was a "a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that."

Why it matters: Facebook has been under extraordinary pressure from lawmakers, regulators and Wall Street to respond to the issue.

Khorri Atkinson 6 hours ago
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Congress releases omnibus spending plan

Capitol building at sunset
Congress will try to pass the spending bill later this week. Photo: Zach Gibson / Getty Images

The House and Senate have released the $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year. It includes increases for defense, homeland security, plus funding for infrastructure and opioid abuse treatment.

Read a summary of the proposal here.