DENVER (CBS4) – In hopes of furthering the trust and security of the general public on the internet, Senator Michael Bennet has proposed legislation that would create a commission to oversee businesses operating on the internet. Bennet, the senior senator from Colorado, said the proposal comes as a way to assure some of the most powerful companies in the world are operating in the best interest of the American people.
As of now, Bennet is the sole sponsor of the bill. He proposed creating a “Digital Platform Commission” which would operate and oversee companies using the internet much like how the Food and Drug Administration oversees the country’s guidelines when it comes to pharmaceuticals.
Bennet told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas the commission would help prioritize and balance free speech, national security and mental health.
“Our advisories are infiltrating social media platforms in the country,” Bennet, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said.
In an interview with CBS4, the senator said the commission would oversee regulations and guardrails for big tech companies, including but not limited to platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Google, Amazon, Twitter and TikTok. While social media companies are behind many of the concerns some Americans have, Bennet said the commission would have oversight of American internet regulations.
Section 230, a law that was created in the 1990s, is one of the most debated federal laws when it comes to the powers given to major websites. The law largely gives immunity to companies for content uploaded by third parties. While Bennet said he believes Section 230 should potentially be revised, he felt the commission was a separate step that could be taken to further protect American interests.
“We have had basically completely unregulated social media platforms. These companies aren’t startups anymore. They are some of the most important and dominant companies in America,” Bennet said.
Bennet hoped the development of a five-person commission, made up of technology experts from differing parties and backgrounds, would help the country take action toward regulating big tech instead of allowing other countries or the companies themselves to do so.
“I don’t see congress ever doing that. So, I would much rather have a group of people that know the industry and know what they are talking about in an independent commission,” Bennet said.
“My initial reaction is favorable, though there may be a little caution,” said Denise Maes, Public Policy Analyst for Maes Solutions.
Maes, who worked for the ACLU defending civil rights, said she was most concerned about the proposed commission’s ability to oversee how Americans exercise their freedom of speech in a modern world, as many use social media to do so.
“One of the concerns I have is the regulating of free speech,” Maes said. “Regulating content and what can actually be on the digital platform is concerning.”
Maes, however, noted that most Americans do support creating more accountability for social media platforms when it comes to algorithms, mental health and conspiracy theories.
Bennet said he’s confident the commission can protect the first amendment while also stopping big tech from setting their own rules.
“What we can’t do is spend another 10 years doing nothing and look back, and say we spent another 10 years ignoring this crisis in our country,” Bennet said.
Bennet said his proposal is just that, for now, a proposal. He hoped introducing the bill would start a debate and dialogue about what the commission should look like. He hoped such discussion would one day result in the formation of the commission.
Bennet proposed that the commission would be made up of members who were selected by the president and approved by congress. He suggested the members have the ability to stay on the commission for periods longer than a typical presidential cycle to prevent parties from rotating out commission members for political purposes.