This paper shows just how unprepared the US is to deal with the problems technology has created

Sen. Mark Warner has some interesting ideas.
Sen. Mark Warner has some interesting ideas.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

US Senator Mark Warner’s office has outlined a series of policy proposals for regulating the tech industry. The paper presents a number of well-informed ideas, but it also shows just how much the US government would have to do in order to take more control over Silicon Valley.

Warner’s proposals are divided into sections on misinformation, privacy, and competition (you can read the full text at Axios, which first reported the paper’s existence). They include:

  • Requiring that bots and bot accounts are clearly labeled as such
  • Making tech companies liable for defamation under state tort laws
  • Building media literacy among the public
  • GDPR-like legislation that would protect user privacy
  • Making algorithms more transparent and available for government audit
  • Requiring data to be portable between services

Within the proposals, Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, pinpoints some of the biggest hurdles to controlling and regulating tech and the problems it has sowed:

  • The US is not equipped to fight cyber attacks. “After multiple briefings and discussions, it is evident that the intelligence and national security communities are not as well-positioned to detect, track, attribute or counter malicious asymmetric threats to our political system as the should be,” the paper explains. Government programs to fight cyber attacks are, it says, “disparately positioned with unclear reporting chains and lack metrics for measuring success.”
  • There’s no deterrence strategy to fight cyber attacks, and no system to coordinate the effort. “We lack a deterrence strategy that would discourage cyberattacks or information warfare targeting our democracy,” the paper says. “In the absence of a credible deterrent, there is nothing preventing Russia or another adversary from just continuing to use a tool that, frankly, has been working. It is not even clear which of the numerous agencies and departments tasked with responding to the cyberthreat is supposed to be in charge.”
  • Current laws do not apply to today’s landscape. “Because outdated election laws have failed to keep up with evolving technology, online political ads have had very little accountability or transparency, as compared to ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite,” the paper says. It argues that the Honest Ads Act is one way to address this problem, but the bill has lingered in Congress since October.
  • Even if new laws should be created, in many cases there would be no government body to implement them. “If GDPR-like legislation were to be proposed, a central authority would need to be created to enforce these regulations,” the paper says. “EU member states have their own data privacy authorities to enforce the GDPR, but this does not exist in the US.”
  • One of the existing institutions tasked with overseeing the industry has no significant authority. “Many attribute the [Federal Trade Commission’s] failure to adequately police data protection and unfair competition in digital markets to its lack of genuine rulemaking authority (which it has lacked since 1980),” the paper says. “Efforts to endow the FTC with rulemaking authority—most recently in the context of Dodd-Frank—have been defeated.”