By RAELYNN RICARTE
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre commended two Washington lawmakers this week for working together on rules to set clear limits on how “Big Tech” collects, uses and shares highly personal data.
At a press briefing this week, Ms. Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration was “heartened to see bipartisan cooperation” to address the issue between Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Spokane, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Edmonds.
Each legislator leads committees charged with regulating tech companies in their respective chambers. Rep. McMorris Rodgers chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Cantwell the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology.
“Democrats and Republicans need to come together to pass serious federal protections for Americans’ privacy, including the strongest possible protections for minors,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said during a White House press briefing on Thursday.
Her comments followed President Joe Biden call for both parties to unite against companies that “collect, share and exploit our most personal data, deepen extremism and polarization in our country, tilt our economy’s playing field, violate the civil rights of women and minorities, and even put our children at risk.”
He issued the challenge in an op-ed published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal.
“Big Tech companies collect huge amounts of data on the things we buy, on the websites we visit, on the places we go and, most troubling of all, on our children,” he wrote. “We must hold social-media companies accountable for the experiment they are running on our children for profit.”
Sen. Cantwell and Rep. McMorris Rodgers haven’t always agreed on how best to rein in the reach of social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok.
Rep. McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Frank Pallone, her Democratic counterpart from New Jersey, backed a package of reforms last year that cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 53-2.
However, Sen. Cantwell criticized that bipartisan bill, referring to it as “weak.” She backed a separate bill to protect children online that Rep. McMorris Rodgers did not believe went far enough.
Sen. Cantwell responded to President Biden’s call for action with this written comment: “I appreciate President Biden’s continued partnership on tech regulation as well as the work the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] and many states are already doing to protect consumers. Congress must pass strong rules that protect kids and adults online – with strong enforcement to make sure they stick. I will continue to advocate for robust privacy rights in any nationwide standard and meaningful enforcement mechanisms, including the right for individuals to sue for substantial privacy harms.”
Rep. McMorris Rodgers said in a written statement that she welcomed President Biden’s message. She then called for social media companies to scale back restrictions on free speech that doesn’t agree with their ideologies, a longstanding area of disagreement between the parties.
Republicans claim that social media platforms unduly target conservative voices, and Democrats believe tech companies are not doing enough to censor misinformation.
“President Biden is correct to acknowledge the risks posed by Big Tech for Americans,” Rep. McMorris Rodgers said. “Rather than trying to address these harms unilaterally through executive action and contorting authority, the administration needs to work with Congress to enact comprehensive privacy protections through one national privacy standard that protects all Americans, especially our kids.”
Republicans narrowly took a majority in the House in the 118th Congress, and Democrats retained control of the Senate. Ms. Jean-Pierre said it was important in a divided government for both parties to share the focus on regulating tech companies.
“We look forward to working with both parties and both houses to get privacy and other tech legislation done,” she told reporters. “The protection of privacy is important for Americans across the country, but also let’s not forget our children.”