Georgia election results sweep away tech's regulatory logjam

Coverage Type: 

Georgia's election results handing Senate control to Democratic lawmakers mean the incoming Biden administration can fill key seats at the agencies that regulate tech.

At the agencies: Without new incoming chairs, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission — the agencies that oversee tech and telecom issues — would face deadlock, as current FTC leader Joe Simons is widely expected to step down. Democratic control of the Senate eliminates that scenario. Democrats will take the reins as the FTC litigates its antitrust case against Facebook and launches a wide-ranging review of social media and streaming company data collection practices. The Democrats at the FTC, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Rohit Chopra, have called in the past for the agency to more harshly penalize Facebook and YouTube over privacy violations. At the FCC, a Democratic majority will be able to pass new net neutrality rules and reform subsidy programs aimed at closing the digital divide. "The agencies and government will be fully staffed, and that’s not a small thing," said Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate Gigi Sohn. "The agencies will act boldly." But, it will likely take months before there are Democratic majorities at each agency.

Capitol: The change in party control of the Senate also improves the prospects for advancing tech-related legislation on antitrust reform, privacy and changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. While both parties have mulled changes to Section 230, Republican lawmakers' complaints about anti-conservative bias by social media companies have led many of them to embrace a full repeal of the law, while Democratic lawmakers have largely pushed less sweeping revisions. Democratic lawmakers will begin rounding up support for positions on key committees, line up their agency picks, and start forming agendas.

Georgia results sweep away tech's regulatory logjam