House GOP struggles to nail down priorities on Big Tech agenda

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Col.)
Greg Nash

House Republicans met to outline priorities for their plans for taking on tech giants during a task force meeting Wednesday, but left without a clear consensus on which issues to prioritize, according to lawmakers in the room. 

Members of the Big Tech Censorship and Data Task Force, assembled in August, previewed their agenda on addressing tech giants during the closed-door meeting.

But the members’ recommendations focused on reforming privacy and tech companies’ liability, and were “lacking” in “recognition that antitrust needs to be part of the solution,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) told The Hill.

“Antitrust is one of the answers that task force and Republican members should consider,” Buck, ranking member of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said. 

If the GOP wins control of the House in November, they have to make sure antitrust is part of their agenda next year to tackle Big Tech, Buck said. 

Instead, he said, members of the task force, including House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), were more focused on prioritizing reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The controversial Section 230 provision provides tech companies a legal liability shield over content posted by third parties. Republicans have attacked it over unsubstantiated claims that tech companies are censoring conservative content.

A person familiar with Wednesday’s conversation said Buck and others in the room had a “friendly debate on antitrust.”

“Every member who attended yesterday’s meeting had a chance to participate. Overall, the conversation was very positive, and included a friendly debate on antitrust between Rep. Buck and many other members in the room. There isn’t consensus but conversations will continue,” the person said. 

The House Judiciary Committee in June advanced a package of antitrust reform bills that supporters said would help enforcers target the market power of tech companies. But the bills have stalled in Congress with pushback from both sides of the aisle.

Buck said he is still hopeful that bills will go forward, even if they “may not be in the same form.”

McMorris Rodgers said she looks forward to continuing work on outlining GOP priorities on tackling tech during next week’s issue conference.

“I appreciate every member who participated. There was a lot of consensus and enthusiasm. There is still more work to do,” she said in a statement. 

Tags antitrust Big tech Cathy McMorris Rodgers Ken Buck Section 230

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