Proposed Big Tech regulator would issue a revocable license to Apple and others

A bi-partisan proposal by two US senators has argued for the creation of a federal Big Tech regulator, with wide-ranging enforcement powers. It would issue operating licenses to tech giants, which ultimately could be revoked in the event that a company repeatedly ignored its rulings.

Apple is directly referenced in a piece co-written by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) …

Proposal for federal big tech regulator

The two senators outlined their proposal in a piece in the New York Times. They argue that while technology has done a great deal of good, it also has a dark side.

Digital innovation has had a dark side. Giant digital platforms have provided new avenues of proliferation for the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, human trafficking, drug trafficking and bullying and have promoted eating disorders, addictive behaviors and teen suicide.

Apple is specifically name-checked in the piece, as one of the companies which would be subjected to the powers granted to the proposed agency.

Apple forces entrepreneurs (and thereby consumers) to pay crushing commissions to use its App Store. A few Big Tech companies stifle all competition before it poses any serious threat.

The link is to the mobile app ecosystem antitrust report which concluded earlier this year that the app stores of both Apple and Google had an anticompetitive effect.

Tech giant licenses could be revoked

CNN – which has seen a draft of the bill – reports that the agency would go as far as issuing operating licenses to tech giants, which could ultimately be revoked if they failed to adhere to rulings.

For the largest companies under its purview — defined by a mixture of user numbers, revenue figures, market capitalization and other metrics — the commission would issue operating licenses that could be revoked in the case of repeat offenses, according to a copy of the bill text reviewed by CNN.

Congress doesn’t have tech expertise, admit senators

The senators makes the unusual admission that Congress doesn’t have the tech expertise needed to effectively police big tech, hence the need for a specific federal agency staffed by experts.

Enough is enough. It’s time to rein in Big Tech. And we can’t do it with a law that only nibbles around the edges of the problem. Piecemeal efforts to stop abusive and dangerous practices have failed. Congress is too slow, it lacks the tech expertise, and the army of Big Tech lobbyists can pick off individual efforts easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Meaningful change — the change worth engaging every member of Congress to fight for — is structural.

The piece admits that creating such an agency won’t be easy, but says it will be worth the fight.

Reining in tech giants will be hard, but it’s a fight worth fighting. If we win, Americans finally will have the tools they need to combat many online evils harming their children and ruining lives. And small businesses will have a fighting chance to innovate and compete in a world dominated by tech monopolies.

9to5Mac’s Take

There’s exactly zero chance that Apple would ever need a single overarching license to carry out its business, nor that this license could be revoked, putting the company out of business.

This agency isn’t a serious proposal; rather, it’s intended as a warning shot across the bows of tech giants. It’s a way to suggest to tech companies that unless they are willing to moderate their behaviors in response to more modest proposals, things could get very much worse.

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Ben Lovejoy