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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Critics hope to tap into unease over tech as they push new regulation

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Right now, the giant, all-powerful presence of tech firms is felt from San Francisco to Washington, from Paris to London.

Their reach is so great that the European Union has been working to shape the companies’ practices, such as requiring Facebook to more clearly label posts from Russia. The tech industry has charged that new regulations to rein in the companies are an existential threat.

As lawmakers ponder new laws to reduce their role in society, some activists argue that, no matter what regulations a government passed, there is nothing that can stem the power of companies such as Facebook, Apple, Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

They are working to bring a more intrusive regulatory state to Silicon Valley.

At a conference last month in Texas, foreign policy experts launched a campaign for a new overseas regulatory body to compete with the powerful companies, the Silicon Valley Political Observatory.

Its operatives have gone to London, where they plan to open an office in 2019; Berlin, where it has already held three meetings; and Brussels, where it has also met.

“The concentration of power [in Silicon Valley] is already enormous,” said Charles Ferguson, the director of “Inside Job,” a documentary about the 2008 financial crisis that highlighted the vulnerability of large corporations. “It would be unconscionable if political power also disappeared to be placed somewhere in this administration or in the dark heart of the tech industry.”

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