Creating a new federal agency to regulate Big Tech would be a disaster

By Neil Chilson, The Washington Post

Have you ever accidentally shared a picture or a message with the wrong audience on Facebook? Have you wondered why social media sites show ads for something you recently purchased on an unrelated website? Are you concerned that your son or daughter might be getting addicted to an app or a game on their phone?

The Internet generates legitimate concerns about privacy, safety, fairness and misinformation. It’s good we are having a national discussion about how best to address such concerns. But when someone suggests we need a law to solve our problems, it’s time to pause and take a breath. And take another breath — or maybe book a meditation retreat — if someone claims we need a whole new federal bureaucracy.

But that’s exactly what some have done. Scholars at the University of Chicago’s Stigler Center recently called for the creation of a new federal Digital Authority to oversee everything from privacy and mergers to discrimination and online addiction. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) have a similar proposal for a 1,600-employee U.S. Digital Privacy Agency, which would regulate the way tech companies handle data. President Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser Jason Furman wrote for the U.K. competition authority a report suggesting a new digital regulator might be needed. Australia’s competition regulator recently recommended something similar.

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