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The ruling could undermine government efforts to curb big tech

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The Associated Press

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Matt O'brien

FILE - Lina Khan, nominee for Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, speaks during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 21, 2021. The Supreme Court's latest climate change ruling could dampen efforts by federal agencies to rein in the tech industry, which went largely unregulated for decades as the government tried to catch up to changes wrought by the internet. Under Chair Khan, the FTC also has widened the door to more actively writing new regulations in what critics say is a broader interpretation of the agency's legal authority.
File-Lina Khan, Federal Trade Candidates for the Commission will speak on April 21, 2021, at the Senate Commission's Confirmation Hearing on Commerce, Science, and Transportation at Capitol Hill, Washington. The Supreme Court's latest climate change ruling may undermine federal restraint efforts High-tech that has been largely unregulated for decades as the government tried to catch up with the changes caused by the Internet. In industry. Under Chair Khan, the FTC also opened the door to more aggressive writing of new regulations by saying that critics are a broader interpretation of the authorities' legal authority. Photo by Graeme Jennings/AP Communications

The Supreme Court's latest climate change ruling is by the federal government. An agency to curb the technology industry, which has been largely unregulated for decades, as the government has attempted to catch up with the changes caused by the Internet, which could undermine its efforts.

In a 6-3 ruling tailored to the Environmental Protection Agency, the court said Thursday and the EPA has broadly reduced power plant emissions that contribute to global warming. I have ruled that I am not authorized. .. It is widely expected that precedent will lead to the challenge of other rules set by government agencies.

"All institutions will face new hurdles in the face of this misleading decision," said Center for Democracy and Technology, Washington-based digital rights nonprofit. Alexandra Givens, Chief Executive Officer, said. "But hopefully the institutions will continue to move forward in their work."

In particular, the Federal Trade Commission consumes under a leader appointed by President Joe Biden last year. We have pursued an active agenda in consumer protection, data privacy, and competition in the technology industry.

Biden's choice for the five-member Federal Communications Commission slows or blocks access to websites and applications that Internet providers don't pay for. We are also pursuing stronger "net neutrality" protection that prohibits things. For premium services.

Former FTC chief technology officer during President Donald Trump's administration said the ruling could create new rules for the FTC and other federal lawyers to impact their business. He said he was likely to instill the fear of.

The court said, "As for major policy changes that could transform the entire sector of the economy, Congress basically has to make those choices, not institutions." Said Neil Chilsung, now a libertarian fellow. A tilted stand-to-gather founded by billionaire businessman Charles Koch.

Givens disagreed, arguing that many institutions, especially the FTC, have clear authority and should be able to withstand proceedings inspired by the EPA's decision. did. She said that Judge John Roberts, who wrote her opinion, repeatedly described it as an "abnormal" situation.

Gives is one of the technology advocates who urge Congress to act urgently to enact legislation that protects digital privacy and other technical issues. But she said the law usually stayed in the book for decades and it was unrealistic to expect Congress to focus on all new technology developments that question the mission of the institution. ..

"We need a democratic system that allows Congress to empower specialized agencies to deal with problems when they are unexpected," she said. "Government can't literally work with Congress to legislate all the twists and turns."

Work on "unfair or deceptive" business practices by Congress in the 1970s. The empowered FTC was a pioneer in Biden's government-wide mission to promote competition in some industries, including the Big. Technology, healthcare, agriculture. Various goals include hearing aid prices, airline baggage charges, and food "US products" labels.

Under Chair Lina Khan, the FTC also opens the door to more aggressive writing of new regulations by saying that critics are a broader interpretation of the legal authority of the authorities. I spread it out. The initiative could face harsh legal challenges following a High Court ruling. The ruling may question the regulatory agenda of government agencies. This exposes government agencies to be more cautious or face tougher and more costly legal challenges.

Khan said, "She wasn't really a person pursuing soft measures, so it could be a devastating approach," Chilsung said.

Ethan Zuckerman, an Internet policy expert at the University of Massachusetts, said it would be difficult to measure the potential impact of court decisions on existing technology regulations. This is also because "there are not so many technical regulations to undo".

He said one target could be the Consumer Finance Agency, "Bethenoir for many conservatives." Large companies such as Facebook's parent Meta may also resort to strict enforcement measures based on the idea that federal agencies are not explicitly allowed to regulate social media.

"We are in an unknown territory, a court that seems hell to take the wrecking ball to precedent and carry out as many right-wing priorities as possible in the shortest possible time. There is, "said Zuckerman.

This ruling could discourage institutions like the FTC from acting to limit harm from artificial intelligence and other new technologies. It may have less impact on the new rules that are becoming clearer in the area of ​​the institution that imposes them.

Michael Brooks, chief adviser to the non-profit center for vehicle safety, said the ruling opens the door to court challenges, but the government's ability to regulate vehicle safety or self-driving cars. He said it was unlikely to change.

For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States has clear authority to regulate vehicle safety from the 1966 Vehicle Safety Act, Brooks said.

"Unless the rules they issue relate to the safety of the vehicle and are outside the scope of their authority, how the court will do as long as it is related to safety. I don't know if I can do it. Stop running around the safety law, "he said.

Unlike the EPA, which is authorized by multiple complex laws, NHTSA's "authority is very clear," Brooks said.

If NHTSA deviates significantly from safety regulations, problems can occur. For example, he said, if regulations were enacted aimed at shifting buyers from SUVs to more fuel-efficient cars, they could be withdrawn. However, he said, the agency has historically adhered to its mission to regulate vehicle safety with some authority over the fuel economy.

However, a company like Tesla, which has tested the limits of NHTSA's authority, could file a proceeding for the unpredictable Supreme Court and win, Brooks said.


Associated Press writers Mercy Gordon of Washington, Frank Bajak of Boston, and Tom Crischer of Detroit contributed to this report.

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