Congress should create an agency to oversee digital platforms, senators write

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers are pushing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to create the oversight body as part of an effort to craft an AI policy framework.

A group of lawmakers are pressing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to prioritize the creation of a federal agency that would oversee digital platforms, as part of the upper chamber’s ongoing bipartisan discussions around regulating artificial intelligence technologies.

In a Jan. 23 letter to Schumer, Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., said the emergence of more complex technologies “requires a new federal agency to protect consumers, promote competition and defend the public interest.”

The letter comes after Schumer hosted a nine-part series of “AI Insight Forums” over the past few months that brought tech industry leaders and other experts to Congress to speak with senators in closed-door sessions about emerging technologies. Schumer previously announced in June 2023 that he planned to hold the forums as part of a broader push to craft a policy framework around the development and use of AI technologies. 

All four of the letter’s signatories are sponsors of legislation — the Digital Platform Commission Act from Bennet and Welch, and the Digital Consumer Protection Commission Act from Graham and Warren, respectively — that they wrote would “establish democratic oversight of Big Tech companies that dominate our society and economy.”

Bennet’s and Welch’s legislation would create a five-member federal commission to conduct oversight of digital platforms and AI providers, while Graham’s and Warren’s bill would similarly establish a new commission to regulate the biggest online platforms. 

The lawmakers expressed concern in their letter that “Big Tech companies have provided new vehicles for drug trafficking, harassment and the sexual abuse and exploitation of children” and said these same firms “stand to benefit from the rapid development and deployment” of unregulated AI technologies. 

“At an inflection point such as ours, we should not squander this opportunity to establish real oversight over the largest technology companies,” the senators wrote, adding that Congress “can successfully mitigate the risks of AI while simultaneously addressing the harms American families and businesses experience every day in our digital world.”