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Regulator response to Techlash

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

It's an open question whether all the talk of a backlash against Big Tech leads to any meaningful change in how the tech giants operate. With midterms coming up, there's little chance of new legislation, and historically privacy scandals tend to lead to lots of intense outrage but not systemic change.

Yes, but: The anger is real and, especially if Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders perform poorly in coming hearings, there certainly could be a push for legislation, even if it ends up being narrowly tailored. And this is an area of rare bipartisanship, as the tech giants now have critics on both the far right and far left.

Worth noting: It's not just Congress with the power to do something.

  • Key states could pass laws that would likely become the norm nationwide, just because it is too hard to adjust for 50 different legal regimes.
  • Federal agencies could weigh in. The FTC is already conducting a non-public look into whether Facebook violated a consent decree.
  • Europe's sweeping new privacy law (GDPR) could start to be seen as a template of sorts for future U.S. privacy laws. Global companies will already have to comply starting in May.
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