U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt, has been appointed to a new Republican group that is seeking to chart a unified voice for the party on one of the public’s increasingly large issues — Big Tech.

“We’re going to get to work together to unify our missions and messaging and reaching out to Democrats,” Cline said, because “it’s always better to reach out to Democrats in one voice.”

The formal name of the task force is the Big Tech Censorship and Data Task Force, according to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s website. McCarthy appointed Cline and 15 other Republican representatives from across the country to the group.

Americans have increasingly wanted more regulation of tech companies, such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon, according to Gallup polling data from February.

In surveys conducted by Gallup between Jan. 21 and Feb. 2, 53% of Republicans, 58% of independents and 60% of Democrats wanted more regulation — all up from August of 2019, with Republicans up 5%, independents up 15% and Democrats up 4%.

Cline said reining in Big Tech is a priority for both Republicans and Democrats, but that doesn’t mean reform will come quickly or with complete unity.

“The right and left are both concerned about Big Tech in power, but we approach it from different directions,” he said.

One piece of Big Tech’s reach conservatives are looking to stem is social media companies’ curtailing of speech on their sites, according to Cline. Companies are allowed to do this under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

“It seems like they are choosing to be more of a content provider than a platform,” Cline said. “And in that case, we need to consider repealing Section 230 as it applies to that.”

Cline said he was previously a co-sponsor of a bill by fellow House Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio to repeal such protections to companies granted by Section 230.

But it’s not just about speech for Republicans, Cline said. Market concentration often found in some of the largest technology companies leads to an uncompetitive market, he said.

“Another [issue] is vertical integration of many of these Big Tech companies and their destruction of any kind of competition either by [acquisition] or underpricing of their own products on their platform or giving them higher priority on their [own] platform,” Cline said.

Underpricing is where a large company brings the price of a product below its value to draw business from smaller companies until the smaller companies are no longer able to offer the product and the large company no longer faces any competition, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

“Small businesses are not able to compete on a level playing field on these platforms,” Cline said.

In addition to speech and market concentration, the task force will also look into data privacy and security matters, according to Cline.

A difficulty in addressing Big Tech is the size of the discussions and legislative processes, which span multiple committees and federal jurisdictions such as the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice, according to Cline.

“This task force combines members from all these different committees,” he said.

Bringing members of the party together from these areas to focus on the issue will help craft the party’s position on the issue that it will be able to present to the voters and then the Democrats in the House and the Senate, as well as the Biden administration, next year, Cline said.

“We want to approach them with workable solutions,” Cline said.

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or imunro@dnronline.com. Follow Ian on Twitter @iamIanMunro

(3) comments

bootsielawson

Donald, hate to say but with their money they will just bribe all these people. They spent millions buying poll workers. You might guess what they will do with these committees. If anyone saw them before congress it was embarssing for the legislators. They are not worried about congress.

Donald

Apparently Mr. Cline has no problem underpricing the American working family by supporting the recent HR.1044 bill representing the interests of the cheap labor lobby through the H2A cheap labor visa program, putting the interests of Indian citizens, recent Indian graduates from American universities, and Indian outsourcing companies above the interests of his constituents and other American working families. So, why should we expect he and the rest of this Republican Coffee Klatch to do anything other than their biannual GOP election kabuki dance?

cline

Well said, SPOT on!

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