DENVER (CBS4) – Hoping to boost public confidence and safety on the internet, Senator Michael Bennet has proposed legislation that would create a commission to oversee companies operating on the internet. Bennet, the senior senator from Colorado, said the proposal is a way to ensure some of the world’s most powerful corporations operate in the best interests of the American people.
As of now, Bennet is the sole sponsor of the bill. He proposed creating a “Digital Platform Commission” that would operate and oversee internet-using businesses the same way the Food and Drug Administration oversees the nation’s pharmaceutical guidelines.
Bennet told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas that the commission would help prioritize and balance free speech, national security and mental health.
“Our opinions are infiltrating social media platforms around the country,” said Bennet, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In an interview with CBS4, the senator said the commission would oversee regulations and safeguards for big tech companies, including but not limited to platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Google, Amazon, Twitter and Tik Tok. While social media companies are the source of many of some Americans’ concerns, Bennet said the commission will oversee US internet regulation.
Section 230, a law created in the 1990s, is one of the most debated federal laws regarding the powers given to major websites. The law largely grants immunity to companies for content uploaded by third parties. Although Bennet said he thought Section 230 should potentially be overhauled, he felt the commission was a separate step that could be taken to further protect U.S. interests.
“We’ve had almost completely unregulated social media platforms. These companies are no longer startups. They are some of the largest and most dominant companies in America,” Bennett said.
Bennet hoped that the development of a five-person commission, made up of technology experts from different parties and backgrounds, would help the country take steps to regulate big tech instead of allowing other countries or the companies they own. themselves to do so.
“I never see Congress doing that. So I would much rather have a group of people who know the industry and know what they’re talking about on an independent commission,” Bennett said.
“My initial reaction is favourable, although there may be a bit of caution,” said Denise Maes, public policy analyst for Maes Solutions.
Maes, who worked for the ACLU advocating for civil rights, said she was very concerned about the proposed commission’s ability to monitor how Americans exercise their freedom of speech in a modern world, as many use social media to do so.
“One of my concerns is the regulation of free speech,” Maes said. “The regulation of content and what can actually be on the digital platform is of concern.”
Maes, however, noted that most Americans support creating greater accountability for social media platforms when it comes to algorithms, sanity and conspiracy theories.
Bennet said he was confident the commission could protect the First Amendment while preventing big tech from making its own rules.
“What we can’t do is spend another 10 years doing nothing and looking back, and saying we spent another 10 years ignoring this crisis in our country,” Bennett said.
Bennet said his proposal was just that, for now, a proposal. He hoped that the introduction of the bill would start a debate and dialogue about what the commission should look like. He hoped that such a discussion would one day lead to the formation of the commission.
Bennet proposed that the commission be made up of members selected by the president and approved by congress. He suggested that members be given the option of remaining on the committee for longer periods than a typical presidential cycle to prevent parties from rotating committee members for political gain.