America’s technological revolution has been truly marvelous. The dawn of the Information Age late last century has opened up many new possibilities that it compels us to ask: how do we ensure that we can reap the rewards of these dramatic technological transformations, but avoid the risks to our individual lives, freedoms, and privacy as well as to our families and society in general?
The principle at stake should be obvious to all: Individuals must be free to pursue the technologies that work best for themselves, their families, and their livelihoods – but not against them. That should be Rule 1.
And in applying this standard in Washington, Frank would start with the Constitution’s protection of speech. Americans’ opinions are broad, protected and even crazy but should never be controlled by the federal government. With more than 1,300 federal websites, $1 billion spent on advertising, and 350 TV stations that are at least partially government-funded, if the federal government isn’t selling, it’s because voters aren’t buying. With all those resources, they should never compel private people, businesses, or organizations to put the government’s message out. But this is exactly what the administrative state has done in forcing media technology companies to spin COVID-19 vaccines, hide Hunter Biden’s crimes, and interfere in election integrity. Frank will fight to make sure that private views and opinions are never controlled by the government.
In applying these standards at home, Frank would support Senator Marsha Blackburn’s “Kids Online Act,” bipartisan legislation supported by 47 Senators, which would make the internet safe for kids by default and provide parents the necessary tools to protect their kids from all of the evil we see online. The bill sets requirements for protecting minors from harm on social media, charging individual state attorney generals with enforcement. The liberal establishment has criticized the effort for enabling censorship of ‘marginalized’ groups. But Frank believes children must be protected.
Rule 1 about technology not working against people applies especially to artificial intelligence. AI is already being used in health care, agriculture, navigation, and data security, and experts in many technical fields are working to define the risks posed by its further use. With proper safeguards in place, AI’s prospects are quite promising. And just as American ingenuity and entrepreneurship have led the way on virtually every technological advance in the last century, we should make sure that the US is once again poised to fully capitalize on this one. While AI could work FOR US, Americans should also be protected from fears about what it could do TO US. These fears are legitimate and reinforced by culture; “Hal” in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and Skynet in Terminator come to mind. If successful in the long term, AI would be something that helps and protects humanity, like Star Wars’ C3PO or R2D2. This is not only a distinct possibility but should be the goal. As with nearly all technology, this one comes with a mix of both risks and rewards so the goal for policymakers must be to work purposefully to mitigate the risks while maximizing the rewards for American citizens.
Importance to the Economy
The importance of technology companies to workers, investors and retirement savings cannot be dismissed. Without the “Big 7” (Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Nvidia, Tesla, Meta/Facebook), the S&P’s 13% return would turn into a 4% return. Why? Because the Big 7 is delivering 52% returns which fill our public pension funds, our IRA and 401K accounts and account for many well-paying American jobs. Before we let Biden’s Federal Trade Commission break up these companies with extreme antitrust interpretations, we should first ask who will really pay. If you buy S&P 500 stock today, you are basically buying a handful of companies that are driving the entire market. The Big 7 stocks in the S&P 500 now account for a massive 34% of the entire index’s value. Without these 7 stocks, the S&P 500 is basically flat in 2023. Despite their outsized economic footprint, Frank will work to hold Big Tech companies accountable and to reform their worst practices, such as curbing the free speech of American conservatives.
Avoiding Europe’s Bad Example on Privacy
New internet privacy regulations in the EU, aimed mostly at US technology companies, will stifle innovation, reduce investment, throttle competition, and enable China’s tech sector. EU rules restricting companies from tracking internet searches will likely result in internet search engines that charge fees. Some Americans have no problem with browsers studying their views and searches. Others are bothered and they should have tools to protect themselves without resorting to heavy-handed federal restrictions. American tech users currently have options like DuckDuckGo and other engines that protect privacy. We should avoid bad European examples and let individuals choose which privacy protections work best for them. Technology must not be turned against individuals and markets.