The European Union (EU) is setting landmark regulations for social media and tech platforms to protect user privacy and promote transparency. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in 2018, giving users more control over their personal data. This month, the EU agreed on the Digital Services Act (DSA) to frame rules for Very Large Online Platforms and Search Engines to protect users and require platforms to provide clear information.
In contrast, the US has yet to pass comprehensive legislation in response to 2016 social media interference. Political gridlock and intense lobbying efforts by Silicon Valley firms have hindered progress. Political polarization between Republicans and Democrats further complicates the issue. Republicans worry about censorship and bias, while Democrats worry about privacy and the spread of misinformation.
Even though Silicon Valley seemingly benefits from the lack of regulation in the short term, the US as a whole will suffer in the long term. Without clear rules and standards, tech companies make it up as they go along and self-regulate, leading to abuses of power and harm to consumers. Moreover, as Europe sets the regulation standards, it is becoming the de facto leader in regulating US-made technology, with the GDPR already having a global impact. With the DSA agreed, Europe gets closer to cementing its position as the global leader in tech regulation.
As a result, the independence of US technology may fall under the sway of its European partners in the future. American companies will be forced to comply with European regulations if they want to do business in the region, which could have ripple effects around the world.
This is yet another way in which political dysfunction is setting back the United States. Without a coherent national strategy for tech regulation, the US risks falling behind other countries in terms of innovation, consumer protection, and global competitiveness. As Europe takes the lead in regulating technology, it is time for the US to take action before it is too late.