Voice of America: No Longer Enamored, Washington Looks Critically at Silicon Valley

Read on Voice of America

SAN FRANCISCO – The era of Silicon Valley operating largely free from government regulation may be coming to an end.

In 2019, lawmakers grilled tech executives at multiple hearings in Washington and federal regulators slapped record fines on tech firms. They promise action in the coming year on a host of issues: competition, online privacy, encryption and bias.

U.S. tech companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon are girding themselves for more federal scrutiny.

“As the internet companies matured without a lot of regulation, some issues have emerged where attention is needed,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat representing Silicon Valley since 1994 and who has introduced a national online privacy bill.

“I think it’s fair enough to examine what kind of rules should be set in certain elements of the tech economy,” she said.

For years, Washington was enamored with the technology industry and its iconic companies that fueled economic growth. They created new tools for campaigning and reaching voters, and enjoyed an aura of cool.


Now, there are threats of fines over things such as violating users’ privacy or stifling competition.

In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission issued a record $5 billion fine against Facebook for “deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information.” It also issued a $170 million fine against Google for violating children’s privacy on YouTube, which Google owns.

New laws, such as the one Lofgren proposes, could give American users more control over their online data and limit companies’ ability to collect user data. Those moves could limit companies’ ability to sell advertising, which funds the free internet.

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