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High Techs High Noon

(First appeared on Poligage Experts "Top of Mind")

It’s high tech’s high noon on Capitol Hill, but no matter which side you fall on one thing is clear: members of Congress are getting smarter on tech issues. Most of us watched Facebook’s worst nightmare, whistleblower Frances Haugen testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and releasing internal documents allegedly showing how Facebook harms children, sows divisions and undermines democracy. The previous week the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee held hearings on how tech firms collect data and use it to their competitive advantage. Google and Facebook both face antitrust lawsuits from federal authorities.

As hearings and legislation wind its way through the halls of Congress, a big takeaway from these hearings is how smart Congress is getting on tech issues. It’s been a long-running joke how few members use email or even a computer. To take on the likes of Facebook and Google, lawmakers are upgrading their tech teams to version 2.0. “Cookies,” “algorithms,” “artificial intelligence” (AI), have entered the congressional lexicon. Newer acronyms and phrases are being assigned as homework – “downstream MSI” (meaningful social interactions), “human content moderation” and “engagement-based ranking.”

Frances Haugen went a long way in breaking down the complexities of Facebook by drawing back the curtain. And many members of congress seem to “get it.” Why? Reverse mentoring. Helping members cram for a tech-hearing examination is the work of young “tech team” staffers who have grown up in this online world. As more hearings are held and legislation proposed, Congress is getting smarter having hired 20-something mentors. Now, there’s a groundswell of support for regulating Big Tech.


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