Top Joe Biden adviser seen as making tech regulation more likely

Platform Industry: Sleepy Joe Biden talking to a small room of activists

Joe Biden’s top tech advisor helped craft California’s landmark online privacy law and recently condemned a controversial federal statute that protects platforms from accountability, indicators of how a Biden-led government could come down to two crucial tech policy problems.

Bruce Reed, a former Biden chief of staff who is expected to take a major role in the new government, helped negotiate with all the technology business and legislators on behalf of backers of a ballot initiative that led to the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act. Privacy advocates find legislation as a possible model for a national law.

Reed also co-authored a chapter in a book published last month denouncing the federal law called Section 230, which makes it impossible to sue net companies over the content of user postings.

Both Republicans and Democrats have called for reforming or abolishing 230, which critics say has allowed abuse to thrive on social networking.

Mr Reed, a veteran political operative, was chief of staff for Biden from 2011 to 2013 when Joe Biden was Vice President of the United States. In that role he triumphed Ron Klain, who was recently named incoming White House chief of staff. Reed then served as president of the Broad Foundation, a leading Los Angeles philanthropic company, and as an adviser to Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective in Palo Alto, California.

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CALIFORNIA PRIVACY

Tech companies initially lined up in staunch opposition to the ballot initiative that set the stage for the law, which gives consumers the right to learn what information about them is being given to which companies and to have that information deleted.

“He understands that there needs to be good law,” Mactaggart said.

“He wants to get something done. He wasn’t an ideologue who’d take his toys and go home if it wasn’t perfect.”

With the initiative then a more credible threat, the rest of the industry was willing to come to the table as California State Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg drafted a last-minute bill that kept most of the initiative’s power but offered big tech companies a chance to soften it in following years. Reed was the core of the group that worked on that bill, Hertzberg told Reuters.

“This initiative would not have happened without Bruce, there is no question. He took it seriously when everyone else did not,” Hertzberg said.

Reed’s position on 230 could prove more controversial. In a book published last month, “Which Side of History? How Technology Is Reshaping Democracy and Our Lives,” Steyer and Reed co-authored a chapter that called 230 an enemy of children. Though 230 had allowed tech freedom to flourish, they wrote that it has now gone against the desires of its backers by giving companies a financial incentive to encourage hate and abuse.

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“If they sell advertisements that run alongside harmful content, they should be considered complicit in the injury,” Steyer and Reed wrote. “If their algorithms encourage dangerous content, they need to be held liable for helping redress the injury. In the long run, the only real method to moderate content is to moderate the company model.”

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco. Editing by Jonathan Weber and Matthew Lewis.

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