Technology policy priorities for the Biden era

Justin Hendrix / Jan 21, 2021

After the pageantry and fireworks of the inauguration, many who are engaged in the tech policy dialogue believe the Biden administration will be busy on technology issues. Roger McNamee, managing director at Elevation Partners and frequent critic of Silicon Valley, told Bloomberg yesterday that President Biden owes his voters "to really work hard to protect democracy, protect public health, privacy and competition, which are the things that have been undermined" by technology firms. A range of journalists and experts have contributed ideas on what may be the key priorities.

For The Washington Post, Tony Romm, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Faiz Siddiqui, Eli Rosenberg, Cat Zakrzewski and Rachel Lerman present a suite of stories considering the various areas of focus the Biden era may include, including the "regulatory siege looming over Silicon Valley." Other areas of interest will include the rights of gig workers, broadband access, reform of section 230, and antitrust actions.

For The New York Times, Shira Ovide chronicles the focus and opportunity in four key areas: restraining the power of technology companies, including a focus on antitrust actions; a focus on online speech and the ongoing debate around Section 230; competition with China on technology; and addressing the digital divide, in particular broadband in low-income and rural areas.

For CNET, Marguerite Reardon also focuses on antitrust, liability protections, rural broadband, China, and privacy. She adds net neutrality to the list of issues that may come up- but reports it is unclear what a Biden administration may do on the issue. "Biden's record on net neutrality is concerning, to say the least," Evan Greer, deputy director for the grassroots organization Fight for the Future, told Reardon. "Companies like Comcast and Verizon have contributed enormous amounts of money to both Democrats and Republicans over the years."

For Mashable, Rachel Kraus, Sasha Lekach, Jack Morse and Jennimai Nguyen add reinvigoration of the Open Technology Fund, the development of a coherent cybersecurity strategy, and a focus on not only the promise of artificial intelligence, but also its risks. “America's global leadership on AI needs to be a leadership focused not just on innovation, but on ethical and responsible use,” Alexandra Givens, president and CEO of the non-profit Center for Democracy and Technology, told Mashable. “We need the new administration to come in with that as a top priority to give clear guidance about the risk of discriminatory effects to think in a more coherent way about what accountability and transparency looks like."

For the Washington Post, Karen Kornbluh, who directs the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund, and Ellen P. Goodman, a professor at Rutgers University, suggest the Biden administration should pursue "three steps to help treat America’s debilitating information disorder," including clarification that "what happens online is subject to the same legal standards as what happens in real life, update regulations, and increase enforcement," insisting "that the industry make a high-level commitment to democratic design—a so-called digital code of conduct," and the creation of "a new 'PBS of the internet' to strengthen our civic infrastructure and ensure a strong online supply of trustworthy, non-partisan, scientific and election information."

For The Hill, Martijn Rasser and Megan Lamberth with the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security say "he Biden administration must craft an overarching framework for technology policy — a national technology strategy grounded in investments in education, infrastructure, and innovation to promote American competitiveness; proactive and comprehensive measures to protect U.S. technological advantages; and partnering with like-minded countries to push back against rising techno-authoritarianism."

For Foreign Policy, Bhaskara Chakravorti, dean of global business at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, worries that Biden has distanced himself from the tech sector, and sees three immediate priorities for the incoming administration. First, it should "work with state governments to identify gaps at the local levels" around technology issues, especially broadband access. Second, the administration should use its leverage on antitrust to force tech companies to cooperate on a range of issues. And third, Chakravorti believes "the surge in remote working creates an opportunity to take small but meaningful steps towards closing racial inequalities. The tech industry can address its long-standing issues with diversity in its ranks by hiring from regions with deeper pools of diverse talent outside the traditional tech clusters."

Last week, the Center for Security and Emerging Technology hosted a discussion on tech policy recommendations with regard to technology and national security for the Biden administration featuring CSET experts Helen Toner, Andrew Imbrie, Melissa Flagg and Remco Zwetsloot. The discussion focused in particular on leadership in AI. "Continued leadership in artificial intelligence will require an alliance-centered strategy, targeted export controls and support for the U.S. research community that attracts global talent while defending against security threats," the Center says.

Seen other great proposals? Send them to us.


Justin Hendrix
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & ...