Tech Policy Storylines to Watch in 2022

Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas is a DC-based writer whose work has appeared in Playboy, Air Mail, and The New Republic.
Tech Policy Storylines to Watch in 2022

The Democrats’ trifecta victory in 2020 marked a significant change in the way Washington views tech policy. The Biden administration has signaled consistently that they’re looking to get more involved in tech policy than their predecessors, whether through regulations or reworking previous legislation. The administration is populated with officials who are knowledgeable and opinionated on issues like consumer privacy, cryptocurrency and antitrust and as the Democrats fight to enact their policies, we are likely to see at least some major changes in 2022 — here’s what to watch for.

Section 230

Everybody in Washington agrees that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a problem. Enacted in 1996, the policy protects internet platforms from liability for third parties content. Section 230 was a hot button during the 2016 and 2020 elections, when misinformation ran rampant on social media. Republicans believe Section 230 gives tech companies cover to censor their content on social media; Democrats say the law gives tech companies too much immunity for content posted on their platforms. Donald Trump has been a vocal opponent of the law, framing it as a general boogeyman. Given that he still carries the banner of the GOP, Republican lawmakers hoping to get his support are likely to attack the policy. As a candidate for the presidency, Biden said he would revoke Section 230, but his Justice Department is now defending the constitutionality of the statute in Trump’s lawsuit against Meta.

Facebook’s Overseas Acquisition of Giphy

Meta faces a difficult battle overseas (and one that may set a tone in the States) after the UK’s antitrust regulatory agency blocked their $315 million acquisition of Giphy. It was a major step in the ongoing tech antitrust battle; Facebook will begin 2022 by challenging the ruling. But with the agency making such a substantial move, it’s unlikely they’ll back down. Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan, a known antitrust advocate, is sure to be watching how Facebook and the Europeans battle it out.

DMCA Section 1201

Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has become a hot issue in tech policy over the past few years as iPhones became the standard communication and Apple’s lawyers have proven themselves tenacious on copyright issues. Section 1201 deals with right-to-repair issues—that is, the right of consumers to fix their own hardware or to take it to third-party repair shops. The Biden administration has come out on the side of the right-to-repair movement and in a 2021 executive order, he encouraged the FTC “to issue rules against anticompetitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment.” Section 1201 is updated every three years, and new exemptions to the law were issued in 2021, meaning they are likely to be tested in court in 2022.

ISPs and Title II

When Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai repealed the Open Internet Order in 2017, it meant removing Internet Service Providers from their classification under Title II of the Internet Communications Act. Pai’s move took away the regulatory powers the FCC previously had over ISPs, meaning that the job of overseeing regulation has fallen to the FTC, which is a law enforcement agency rather than a regulatory one. But the Biden Administration has been critical of how ISPs have operated and monetized the data they get from consumers and Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has previously supported reclassifying ISPs under Title II. In an October report, the FTC blasted ISPs, saying they collect troves of data, surveil users and “place consumers into sensitive categories such as by race and sexual orientation; and share real-time location data with third-parties.” Restoring the FCC’s regulatory powers over ISPs is a top priority for a number of Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and we can look for that conversation to continue in 2022, especially with FTC Chairwoman Lina Kahn remaining vocal on the issue.

A New Look at the Office of Technology Assessment?

Washington is slowly beginning to talk about restoring the Office of Technology Assessment, the nonpartisan congressional agency that for two decades informed members of Congress on tech and science issues (until then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich abolished the OTA in 1995). The Brookings Institution, an influential and left-leaning D.C. think tank has come out in favor of restoring the Office of Technology Assessment. This is likely to be a Democratic priority, a The duties of the OTA have been taken up by the Government Accountability Office, but critics say the GOA is woefully equipped to examine critical issues like AI ethics.

SEC & Crypto

Cryptocurrency has boomed in an unregulated market over the past decade but that era may soon be coming to an end. SEC Chairman Gary Gensler has been vocal about his desire to have crypto regulated at the SEC, though Republicans have pushed back upon those ideas. When Biden signed the infrastructure bill into law, it included a provision that would tax cryptocurrencies, but that language was broad and upset many in the crypto space. The SEC hasn’t put a timeline on when they might try to strap regulations on cryptocurrencies, but in December the agency charged Ripple Labs with selling $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. The procession of that case in 2022 will tell us a lot about the SEC’s power in the industry. The appetite for crypto regulation stretches across the Biden Administration — in November, the Treasury Department published a report on stablecoins which quoted Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen as saying “the absence of appropriate oversight presents risks to users and the broader system.”

California Privacy Law

The California Consumer Privacy Act is viewed as one of the most important pieces of tech-related legislation in the United States. In 2020, the ballot proposition created the California Privacy Protection Agency, which will not begin enforcement activities until 2023. The agency is headed by Ashkan Soltani, who has a long pedigree and has worked on federal investigations into multiple big tech companies. His agency will enforce the California Consumer Privacy Act, which gives users more control over their data — consumers will be able to know who is collecting their data and how it is being shared. The Act also limits the usage of sensitive personal information like race and sexual orientation. The CCPA is aimed at large industries — those with a gross annual revenue of over $25 million and sell consumers’ information. In 2022, the bill may be amended again. But more interesting is how other states aim to copy California’s law which might hint at some federal statutes in the distant future. And some states, like Nevada, have brought on similar legislation. Look for more of those bills to pop up in statehouses next year.

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Creandum’s Carl Fritjofsson on the Differences Between the Startup Ecosystem in Europe and the U.S.

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Carl Fritjofsson
Carl Fritjofsson

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Creandum General Partner Carl Fritjofsson talks about his venture journey, why Generative-AI represents an opportunity to rethink products from the ground up, and why Q4 2023 and Q1 2024 could be "pretty bloody" for startups.

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AI Is Rapidly Advancing, but the Question Is, Can We Keep Up?

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
AI Is Rapidly Advancing, but the Question Is, Can We Keep Up?
Evan Xie

One way to measure just how white-hot AI development has become: the world is running out of the advanced graphics chips necessary to power AI programs. While Intel central processing units were once the most sought-after industry leaders, advanced graphics chips like Nvidia’s are designed to run multiple computations simultaneously, a baseline necessity for many AI models.

An early version of ChatGPT required around 10,000 graphics chips to run. By some estimates, newer updates require 3-5 times that amount of processing power. As a result of this skyrocketing demand, shares of Nvidia have jumped 165% so far this year.

Building on this momentum, this week, Nvidia revealed a line-up of new AI-related projects including an Israeli supercomputer project and a platform utilizing AI to help video game developers. For smaller companies and startups, however, getting access to the vital underlying technology that powers AI development is already becoming less about meritocracy and more about “who you know.” According to the Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk scooped up a valuable share of server space from Oracle this year before anyone else got a crack at it for his new OpenAI rival, X.AI.

The massive demand for Nvidia-style chips has also created a lucrative secondary market, where smaller companies and startups are often outbid by larger and more established rivals. One startup founder compares the fevered crush of the current chip marketplace to toilet paper in the early days of the pandemic. For those companies that don’t get access to the most powerful chips or enough server space in the cloud, often the only remaining option is to simplify their AI models, so they can run more efficiently.

Beyond just the design of new AI products, we’re also at a key moment for users and consumers, who are still figuring out what sorts of applications are ideal for AI and which ones are less effective, or potentially even unethical or dangerous. There’s now mounting evidence that the hype around some of these AI tools is reaching a lot further than the warnings about its drawbacks.

JP Morgan Chase is training a new AI chatbot to help customers choose financial securities and stocks, known as IndexGPT. For now, they insist that it’s purely supplemental, designed to advise and not replace money managers, but it may just be a matter of time before job losses begin to hit financial planners along with everyone else.

A lawyer in New York just this week was busted by a judge for using ChatGPT as part of his background research. When questioned by the judge, lawyer Peter LoDuco revealed that he’d farmed out some research to a colleague, Steven A. Schwartz, who had consulted with ChatGPT on the case. Schwartz was apparently unaware that the AI chatbot was able to lie – transcripts even show him questioning ChatGPT’s responses and the bot assuring him that these were, in fact, real cases and citations.

New research by Marucie Jakesch, a doctoral student from Cornell University, suggests that even users who are more aware than Schwartz about how AI works and its limitations may still be impacted in subtle and subconscious ways by its output.

Not to mention, according to data from, high school and college students already – on the whole – prefer utilizing ChatGPT for help with schoolwork over a human tutor. The survey also notes that advanced students tend to report getting more out of using ChatGPT-type programs than beginners, likely because they have more baseline knowledge and can construct better and more informative prompts.

But therein lies the big drawback to using ChatGPT and other AI tools for education. At least so far, they’re reliant on the end user writing good prompts and having some sense about how to organize a lesson plan for themselves. Human tutors, on the other hand, have a lot of personal experience in these kinds of areas. Someone who instructs others in foreign languages professionally probably has a good inherent sense of when you need to focus on expanding your vocabulary vs. drilling certain kinds of verb and tense conjugations. They’ve helped many other students prepare for tests, quizzes, and real-world challenges, while computer software can only guess at what kinds of scenarios its proteges will face.

A recent Forbes editorial by academic Thomas Davenport suggests that, while AI is getting all the hype right now, other forms of computing or machine learning are still going to be more effective for a lot of basic tasks. From a marketing perspective in 2023, it’s helpful for a tech company to throw the “AI” brand around, but it’s not magically going to be the answer for every problem.

Davenport points to a similar (if smaller) whirlwind of excitement around IBM’s “Watson” in the early 2010s, when it was famously able to take out human “Jeopardy!’ champions. It turns out, Watson was a general knowledge engine, really best suited for jobs like playing “Jeopardy.” But after the software gained celebrity status, people tried to use it for all sorts of advanced applications, like designing cancer drugs or providing investment advice. Today, few people turn to Watson for these kinds of solutions. It’s just the wrong tool for the job. In that same way, Davenport suggests that generative AI is in danger of being misapplied.

While the industry and end users both race to solve the AI puzzle in real time, governments are also feeling pressure to step in and potentially regulate the AI industry. This is much easier said than done, though, as politicians face the same kinds of questions and uncertainty as everyone else.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has been calling for governments to begin regulating AI, but just this week, he suggested that the company might pull out of the European Union entirely if the regulations were too onerous. Specifically, Altman worries that attempts to narrow what kinds of data can be used to train AI systems – specifically blocking copyrighted material – might well prove impossible. “If we can comply, we will, and if we can’t, we’ll cease operating,” Altman told Time. “We will try, but there are technical limits to what’s possible.” (Altman has already started walking this threat back, suggesting he has no immediate plans to exit the EU.)

In the US, The White House has been working on a “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights,” but it’s non-binding, just a collection of largely vague suggestions. It’s one thing to agree “consumers shouldn’t face discrimination from an algorithm” and “everyone should be protected from abusive data practices and have agency over how their data is used.” But enforcement is an entirely different animal. A lot of these issues already exist in tech, and are much larger than AI, and the US government already doesn’t do much about them.

Additionally, it’s possible AI regulations won’t work well at all if they aren’t global. Even if you set some policies and get an entire nation’s government to agree, how to set similar worldwide protocols? What if US and Europe agree but India doesn’t? Everyone around the world accesses roughly the same internet, so without any kind of international standard, it’s going to be much harder for individual nations to enforce specific rules. As with so many other AI developments, there’s inherent danger in patchwork regulations; it could allow some companies, or regions, or players to move forward while others are unfairly or ineffectively stymied or held back.

The same kinds of socio-economic concerns around AI that we have nationally – some sectors of the work force left behind, the wealthiest and most established players coming in to the new market with massive advantages, the rapid spread of misinformation – are all, in actuality, global concerns. Just as the hegemony of Microsoft and Google threaten the ability of new players to enter the AI space, the West’s early dominance of AI tech threatens to push out companies and innovations from emerging markets like Southeast Asia, Subsaharan Africa, and Central America. Left unfettered, AI could potentially deepen social, economic, and digital divisions both within and between all of these societies.

Undaunted, some governments aren’t waiting around for these tools to develop any further before they start attempting to regulate them. New York City has already set up some rules about how AI can be used during the hiring process while will take effect in July. The law requires any company using AI software in hiring to notify candidates that it’s being used, and to have independent auditors check the system annually for bias.

This sort of piecemeal figure-it-out-as-we-go approach is probably what’s going to be necessary, at least short-term, as AI development shows zero signs of slowing down or stopping any time soon. Though there’s some disagreement among experts, most analysts agree with Wharton professor and economist Jeremy Siegel, who told CNBC this week that AI is not yet a bubble. He pointed to the Nvidia earnings as a sign the market remains healthy and not overly frothy. So, at least for now, the feverish excitement around AI is not going to burst like a late ‘90s startup stock. The world needs to prepare as if this technology is going to be with us for a while.

What the Future of Rivian Looks Like According to CEO RJ Scaringe

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

What the Future of Rivian Looks Like According to CEO RJ Scaringe

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe took to Instagram last weekend to answer questions from the public about his company and its future. Topics covered included new colors, sustainability, production ramp, new products and features. Speaking of which, viewers also got a first look at the company’s much-anticipated R2 platform, albeit made of clay and covered by a sheet, but hey, that’s…something. If you don’t want to watch the whole 33 minute video, which is now also on Youtube, we’ve got the highlights for you.

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