On Sunday, Amy Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota, joined the 2020 Democratic race, parting from the pack, denouncing her efforts to face big tech.
Most of the Democratic candidates have entered the race trying to outdo the left on great progressive ideals such as universal health care and criminal justice reform, but Klobuchar, a senator who sits for the third time, dodges this progressive struggle for a place in the protection of consumers. .
"We need to put in place digital rules about people's privacy. For too long, big tech companies have been saying, "Do not worry! We have your back! "While your identities are stolen and your data is exploited," she said at its launch on Sunday. "Our laws must be as sophisticated as the people who break them."
Klobuchar has made Big Tech's supervision one of his flagship issues in Congress. "The digital revolution is not coming, it is here," she said.
She scanned Facebook, Google and Twitter after being forced to explain their privacy and political advertising policies. She wants big companies to have more trouble buying or merging with small businesses. And while other Democrats have also been working on these issues – including Sense. Kamala Harris (CA), Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Cory Booker (NJ) – Klobuchar has presented or co-sponsored nearly twice as many bills on these topics in recent years, no other Democrats currently in the running (or likely to becoming).
Conversations with more than a dozen congressional members, former and former agents, technology industry insiders and antitrust experts have shown that she is considered an expert in technology policy and even by its political and pragmatic opponents, who consider it a pragmatist.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) speaks at Fortune's Most Powerful Women's Summit on October 9, 2017 in Washington, DC.Paul Morigi / Getty Images
"Not only does she have in-depth knowledge of the facts and figures, she has also thought a lot about the issues," said Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), one of her co-sponsors of a bill to protect Datas. "She has the unique ability to tackle weeds, but she is also able to look at a problem from 30,000 feet."
The experts of the agencies concerned also respect it. "Among her colleagues, I think she is one of the most impressive people because of her in-depth study of these topics," said Bill Kovacic, former Republican president of the Federal Trade Commission, who praised the stance. of Klobuchar on the understanding of antitrust law and the protection of privacy. "She made an investment that really stands out, building a great knowledge base."
And even those in the tech industry reluctantly acknowledge that she knows what she's talking about. "What I would say about it, is that it's the kind of office you want to deal with," said a technology industry source. "I do not mean that in the sense that we always get what we want. You want someone serious, fair and willful. "
The question is whether his signature problem will captivate the attention (and votes) of the primary democrats. Klobuchar is struck by the fact that she is the "senator of the little things", a practical legislator who deals with consumer issues, such as toy safety and transparency of airfare prices. Although these are often considered small potatoes, his latest attempts are targeting some of the largest US companies.
Klobuchar took the lead on technology reform
It can be said that Klobuchar's biggest victory came as a result of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
She introduced the Honest Ads Act alongside Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), a bill that would require platforms like Facebook to disclose to the buyer an advertisement, as is required on television for political ads.
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner (D-VA) speak at a press conference to present the Honest Advertising Law on October 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer / Getty Images
Facebook, Twitterand Google responded before the bill was approved by Congress. Each of these technology giants now assigns the "X-Paid" label to the political ads, and all have also created a kind of hub or database that allows users to review the types of political ads on their platforms.
"You have to give him arguments for pointing out very early that the big platforms had really done away with it when it was related to Russia and that others were trying to get it off the ground. exploit. The platforms have obviously done a terrible job during the 2016 election. His bill responds to this, "said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), one of the key spokesmen for the upper chamber in technology.
Others attribute to him the merit of having addressed the issue as early.
"She did not just get on the bandwagon. She was really active before everyone was active, "says an agency official. The law on honest announcements "is boring the beef of some hard-working Democratic donors, it has been rather brave in pursuing these guys without fear or favor."
Nevertheless, the reformers consider that the bill is more of a first step forward than a reform is a radical change. The Fair Announcements Act is "certainly the first step in trying to regulate Internet advertising, including social media advertising, very closely to that used for TV commercials," said Shannon McGregor, Researcher in Political Communications. . at the University of Utah.
Some argued that it barely revealed how Russian trolls were using social media to spread misinformation in 2016.
It should be noted that other hopes for 2020 have also been active in the technology sector in different ways.
Harris was at the forefront of setting up online privacy policies and anti-harassment practices when she was California's Attorney General. Booker also participated in calls to examine the size of the giants of Silicon Valley. And Warren is seen as one of the critical discourses on how technology companies have become so important that they are hurting competition.
Klobuchar is widely regarded as a leader in antitrust policy and is the largest Democrat on the Senate antitrust subcommittee. She piloted several bills that would implement parts of the Democrats' "Better Deal" platform, highlighting the scrutiny of mega-mergers in different sectors.
"She has not been reluctant to this problem," said Gigi Sohn, a former FCC adviser and currently a member of Georgetown Law's Institute of Technology and Politics. "She is an expert in the field."
Klobuchar's antitrust positions put her at odds with big companies like Google and Facebook, who are increasingly looking to buy small businesses, but she is not their nemesis.
She has championed the industry on issues such as patent reform and highly skilled immigration, including signing bills simplifying the music licensing process for digital streaming services such as Spotify and the acceleration of the patenting process. These are things that the technology industry likes.
The industry donated to his campaign, which is the case for many other 2020 candidates.
"We worked very closely with her on patent litigation reform and she aggressively attacked patent trolls," said Michael Petricone, vice president of government affairs for the Consumer Technology Association. . "She has shown a lot of foresight in preparing American workers for a technological economy."
A handful of other Klobuchar bills cover data collection and confidentiality, change antitrust and merger enforcement requirements, and seek to expand broadband access in rural areas.
President Klobuchar would be of importance
Most of Klobuchar's actions in the field of technology have, of course, taken place through legislation or in the form of committee and control hearings. As president, she would have a greater capacity to develop a political agenda.
She would be responsible for appointing the Attorney General, the head of the antitrust division of the Department of Justice, the commissioners and the president of the FTC. The GM and the FTC are primarily responsible for enforcing US antitrust and merger supervisors in the United States. Klobuchar's appointees would likely be more aggressive in enforcing antitrust laws and would take a closer look at the proposed agreements.
It would also appoint commissioners and the chair of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the radio, television and telephone industries. Ajit Pai, a member of the FCC appointed by Trump, has canceled net neutrality. Klobuchar, like most Democrats, opposed the decision.
Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute, said the Council of Economic Advisers, an agency of the president's executive bureau with which he or she appoints, could also have influence in the field of technology. The CEA "has always been a powerful player in the development of economic policy programs," Moss said. "I could see that revitalizing and proving a significant contribution on technology issues to a different White House."
Kovacic, who appeared before Klobuchar at the Senate Committee hearings and met with her several times during her tenure at the FTC, said that the depth of the Senator's knowledge in areas such antitrust enforcement and data privacy is profound – Klobuchar understands the technical features political considerations, and what should the policy framework look like, as well as how it should be applied and implemented. "It's not fair if we should go to the moon, but hey, how are we going to get there?" He said.
Drop the hammer on Big Tech is popular
Klobuchar's signature policy is relatively popular.
A poll conducted by the HarrisX market research firm in 2018 found that 53% of Americans believed that large technology companies should be regulated by the federal government in the same way as big banks.
Americans worry more and more about data privacy. Pew surveys show that most people think that they have lost control of how personal information is collected and used.
And while many leading technology brands are still popular, they are not as popular as they have been. A survey of the progressive Data for Progress research group, which is shared exclusively with Vox, revealed that nearly six out of ten voters would favor a tax on high-tech companies that take advantage of user-generated data and content.
A series of reports contributed: the Facebook cascade on data privacy, Russia's interference in the elections and the growing unrest at the size of companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon.
Chelsea Hornick-Becker and Joseph Huff-Hannon set up a showcase of Facebook CEO's cutouts on the East Lawn of the Capitol, in anticipation of his testimony, before a joint hearing of Senate Committees of the Judiciary and Trade on the protection of user data. , 2018.Tom Williams / CQ Call via Getty Images
But few Americans consider these issues as their main political concern, or even very close. In particular, Democratic voters prioritize issues such as health care, income inequality and climate change. These policy areas are likely to be the major themes of the 2020 Democratic primary and will give oxygen to the media in relation to issues such as competition and technology.
Klobuchar may be able to integrate them into his broader message on the economy, as she has done in the past. In a 2017 speech to the Center for American Progress, she acknowledged that antitrust law is "not always in the forefront," although she believes this should be the case. "Protecting competition is a fundamental principle of economic opportunity and equity," she said.
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