Big Tech is under fire in Washington, D.C. like never before.
But come January 2020, the amount of scrutiny of the industry could vastly increase, thanks to action planned by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).
Tillis chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. In that capacity, he’s been telling lobbyists for Big Tech firms – and their critics – that 2020 will be an especially busy year. And the lobbyists and Big Tech firms are not happy.
Tillis is said to be planning a minimum of two hearings a month on topics relevant to intellectual property.
That’s bad news for Big Tech, especially Google which owns YouTube and is persistently the target of accusations that it allows rampant piracy on its platform – a subject squarely within the jurisdiction of Tillis’ subcommittee.
Two hearings a month might not sound like anything interesting or noteworthy to those who have not worked on Capitol Hill or as lobbyists or CEOs interfacing with legislators. But it will require a massive input of time on the part of companies facing enhanced scrutiny, and also present the possibility that many more problematic business practices come to light.
It will also make it harder for Big Tech CEOs to get away with the occasional hearing where they bluster while Senators who are less than tech-savvy ask questions that avoid Big Tech truly being put on the spot and held accountable, with that cycle set indefinitely to wash, rinse, repeat.
While Google has vastly more problems when it comes to issues of intellectual property rights protection, that trend could be seriously bad news for Facebook, too.
Its chief, Mark Zuckberg, is widely regarded in Washington, D.C. as the least likable, relatable, open and cooperative Big Tech executive.
Rumors also abound that since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook’s lobbyists and other consultants have been effectively barred from doing their jobs, as the company attempts a strategy that some have compared to self-flagellation and public penitence in the expectation that the company will eventually be given credit for by regulators and legislators and allowed to operate free of scrutiny and criticism moving forward.
Tillis’ schedule-setting could mean the end of clueless legislators trying to muddle their way through complex issues as they are forced to learn more and be fully prepped for more hearings.
And it could be the end of Big Tech getting a pass through intermittent testimony, running out the clock, and use of jargon and technical terms with luddite Senators who critics say have up until now largely botched oversight of the sector.
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