Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.
Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images
House Republicans are zeroing in on the relationship between Big Tech companies and China, expanding their initial platform focused on tech accountability.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the top Republican on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, informed GOP members of the panel in a memo Wednesday of the new third pillar of their “Big Tech Accountability Platform.”
The expansion of the platform signals how seriously Republicans are taking issues surrounding the major tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. The focus on China could also yield bipartisan support given that Democrats have similarly expressed concerns about American data getting into the wrong hands. The Senate recently passed a $250 billion bill with bipartisan support that aims at strengthening U.S. technology to counter competition from China, showing that message can be a rallying cry for both sides.
McMorris Rodgers said in a memo earlier this year that their focus on tech should include “Big Tech Responsibility,” such as reform around content policies and protecting children online, and “Big Tech Power,” including the collection and use of data and influence over various markets.
Under the new “Big Tech and China” priority, McMorris Rodgers outlined several areas where oversight and policy solutions could step in:
- Controlling the flow of Americans’ data to China by requiring greater transparency from tech platforms about whether U.S. consumer data is stored or sent to systems in China. McMorris Rodgers said lawmakers should also consider requiring companies to notify U.S. customers if they are owned by a state or non-state-run entity based in China.
- Reviewing how app stores vet apps for ties to the Chinese Communist Party. That includes looking at their data security standards and review processes for direct or indirect connections of apps to the CCP.
- Evaluating how tech companies avoid suppliers that use forced labor. This comes after a report from The Information that found Apple used several suppliers in China linked to forced labor by Uighur Muslims, an oppressed minority group. Apple told the publication it looks for forced labor in every country in which it does business and has “found no evidence of forced labor anywhere we operate.”
- Exploring efforts to combat counterfeit goods on tech platforms by examining platform policies and how they scrutinize sellers based in China.
The memo comes less than a week after a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust introduced their own set of bills aiming to rein in the power of the largest tech platforms over competition. McMorris Rodgers’ committee focuses on issues including content moderation and consumer protection that could eventually complement efforts by the antitrust subcommittee focused on the tech industry.