Press Releases

WASHINGTON – With the privacy debate receiving renewed attention in Congress, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and John Thune (R-SD) and Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-AL) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16) today announced that their bipartisan, bicameral DETOUR Act – legislation that would prevent large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns,” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data – has picked up several new endorsements.

“We are pleased to see growing momentum behind our bipartisan effort to ban these manipulative practices,” said the members of Congress today. “There’s an increasing consensus in Congress that Americans should be able to make informed choices about handing over their data to large platform companies.”

The term “dark patterns” is used to describe online interfaces in websites and apps designed to intentionally manipulate users into taking actions they would otherwise not. These design tactics, drawn from extensive behavioral psychology research, are frequently used by social media platforms to mislead consumers into agreeing to settings and practices advantageous to the company.

The DETOUR Act would also prohibit large platforms from deploying features that encourage compulsive usage by children and from conducting behavioral experiments without a consumer’s consent.

"The American Psychological Association supports the efforts of Senators Mark Warner, Deb Fischer, Amy Klobuchar and John Thune to reduce harmful practices and deceptive tactics by social media companies. These practices can be especially harmful to children, but adults are also susceptible,” said Mitch Prinstein, PhD, Chief Science Officer at the American Psychological Association. “Through my research and that of my colleagues in psychological science, we increasingly understand how these companies can mislead individuals. This is why we support the DETOUR Act and its aim to protect social media users.”

“Social media companies often trick users into giving up their personal data – everything from their thoughts and fears to their likes and dislikes – which they then sell to advertisers. These practices are designed to exploit people; not to serve them better. Senator Warner and Senator Fischer’s DETOUR Act would put a stop to the destructive and deceptive use of dark patterns,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

“The DETOUR Act is an important step towards curbing Big Tech's unfair design choices that manipulate users into acting against their own interests. We are particularly excited by the provision that prohibits designs that cultivate compulsive use in children,” said Josh Golin, Executive Director of Fairplay. “Over the past year, we've heard a lot of talk from members of Congress about the need to protect children and teens from social media harms. It's time to put those words into action - pass the DETOUR Act!”

“The DETOUR Act proposed by Sen. Warner and co-sponsors represents a positive and important step to protect American consumers. DETOUR provides a mechanism for independent oversight over large technology companies and curtailing the ability of these companies to use deceptive and manipulative design practices, such as ‘dark patterns,’ which have been shown to produce substantial harms to users,” said Colin M. Gray, PhD, Associate Professor at Purdue University. “This legislation provides a foothold for regulators to better guard against deceptive and exploitative practices that have become rampant in many large technology companies, and which have had outsized impacts on children and underserved communities.”

“The proposed legislation represents an important step towards reducing big tech companies’ use of dark patterns that prioritize user engagement over well-being,” said Katie Davis, EdD, Associate Professor at the University of Washington. “As a developmental scientist, I’m hopeful the DETOUR Act will encourage companies to adopt a child-centered approach to design that places children’s well-being front and center, reducing the burden on parents to look out for and avoid dark patterns in their children’s technology experiences.”

The legislation was also previously supported by Mozilla, Common Sense, and the Center for Digital Democracy. Full text of the DETOUR Act is available here

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WASHINGTON —U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) today led the Virginia congressional delegation in calling on the U.S. Department of Commerce to consider Virginia for future locations of major semiconductor production and research facilities — as efforts to fund the CHIPS for America Act continue.

In a letter  sent to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Warner, Spanberger and the entire Virginia congressional delegation urged the Department to recognize the role Virginia can play in strengthening the American semiconductor industry and creating new jobs in this key sector. Specifically, they called on Secretary Raimondo to consider Virginia as the site for the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) and National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program (NAPMP) — two initiatives established by the CHIPS for America Act that would be funded by legislation currently under consideration by Congress.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA-08), Ben Cline (R-VA-06), Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), Bob Good (R-VA-05), Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09), Elaine Luria (D-VA-02), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04), Bobby Scott, (D-VA-03), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10), and Rob Wittman (R-VA-01).

“Thank you for your work to strengthen American semiconductor manufacturing, and the Department of Commerce’s efforts with Congress to pass the CHIPS for America Act. As Congress works to fully fund the important programs authorized by the law, we write to express our strong support for considering Virginia for sites to establish the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC), National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program (NAPMP), and other federal investments in semiconductor research and manufacturing,” said the Virginia Members.

In their letter, the Virginia Members also outlined Virginia’s longstanding leadership in the semiconductor industry, as well as the reasons why Virginia’s economy would be best suited for these new centers.

The Virginia Members continued, “Virginia’s leading technology workforce and semiconductor manufacturing presence make the Commonwealth an ideal location for future federal investments in semiconductor research and manufacturing. Virginia has the second highest concentration of technology workers in the US, and net technology employment in Virginia grew by more than 27,000 jobs between 2010 and 2019. Virginia also has strong education infrastructure, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) degrees and credentials. In 2019-20, Virginia’s public and private nonprofit colleges and universities awarded 122,869 degrees and certificates in areas such as health care, business, education, information technology and other demand fields.”

Virginia is already home to multiple shovel-ready sites that are ready to support new semiconductor manufacturing, research, and development. This preparation was outlined by the Henrico Economic Development Authority and the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors backing this Spanberger-Warner effort to secure these sites.

“We are ready. Thanks to the hard work of Rep. Spanberger and Sen. Warner to move the CHIPS Act forward, Henrico and the Commonwealth of Virginia are poised for semiconductor investment.  We have a long history of innovation in the semiconductor industry, and with our robust infrastructure, shovel ready sites, and talented workforce we are ready to meet the needs of the semiconductor industry,” said Anthony J. Romanello, Executive Director, Henrico Economic Development Authority.

“Securing advanced manufacturing is critical to growing local, regional and state economies, which is why Chesterfield has taken a strategic approach to be ready when opportunities knock. This expands into our prepared and ready workforce and streamlined planning and permitting processes, which make it easy to do business in Chesterfield. We’ve worked with our economic and community development professionals to determine what’s needed and where, and we’re positioning Chesterfield to be a desired and leading location in attracting technology and other advanced manufacturing to the Commonwealth. We appreciate Sen. Warner and Rep. Spanberger for supporting this effort in Virginia,” said Chris Winslow, Chairman, Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors.

Full text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Raimondo,

Thank you for your work to strengthen American semiconductor manufacturing, and the Department of Commerce’s efforts with Congress to pass the CHIPS for America Act. As Congress works to fully fund the important programs authorized by the law, we write to express our strong support for considering Virginia for sites to establish the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC), National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program (NAPMP), and other federal investments in semiconductor research and manufacturing.

We appreciate the Department of Commerce’s leadership in convening business leaders and government officials to address supply chain disruptions and semiconductor chip shortages. These issues are at the heart of rising prices that are impacting Americans’ pocketbooks. Additionally, investing in domestic semiconductor manufacturing is crucial for US global competitiveness and national security. As such, we strongly support robust funding for the CHIPS Act, and believe Virginia is uniquely positioned to effectively leverage federal investments to strengthen domestic manufacturing.

Virginia’s leading technology workforce and semiconductor manufacturing presence make the Commonwealth an ideal location for future federal investments in semiconductor research and manufacturing. Virginia has the second highest concentration of technology workers in the US, and net technology employment in Virginia grew by more than 27,000 jobs between 2010 and 2019. Virginia also has strong education infrastructure, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) degrees and credentials. In 2019-20, Virginia’s public and private nonprofit colleges and universities awarded 122,869 degrees and certificates in areas such as health care, business, education, information technology and other demand fields.

In addition to the Commonwealth’s highly prepared workforce, there are several shovel-ready sites in Virginia that are eager to support new manufacturing, research, and development. Multiple leading semiconductor manufacturing companies, such as Micron Technology and GeneSiC, have already chosen Virginia for large investments, such as for new semiconductor manufacturing plants, or expanding operations. Virginia has been named the “Top State for Business” five times since CNBC began ranking states for doing business in 2007, most recently ranking first in 2021. For these reasons, Virginia is strongly suited to be a responsible steward of federal investments in domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research, and promote U.S. global competitiveness in this key sector.

We continue to strongly support the Department’s work in promoting domestic semiconductor production and research, and we urge you to consider Virginia for the NSTC, NAPMP, and other investments as the Department implements the CHIPS for America Act. Thank you for your full and fair consideration of this request, consistent with applicable agency guidelines. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement applauding the Senate for taking an important procedural step to pass an American competitiveness package known as the United States Innovation and Competition Act or America COMPETES Act:

“For too long, the United States has allowed our global competitors to out invest us in regard to our innovation economy. This competitiveness bill makes major investments in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, creates good-paying jobs, and provides the tools our country needs to continue competing in the global economy. I am glad the Senate has voted to pass the amended version of this legislation, and I am hopeful that the Senate and House will conference quickly so that we can finally send this legislation to the President’s desk.”

 

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WASHINGTON – Ahead of Wednesday’s Senate hearing with the head of Instagram, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and John Thune (R-SD) along with Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-AL) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16) have re-introduced the Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns,” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data. The DETOUR Act would also prohibit these platforms from using features that result in compulsive usage by children.

The term “dark patterns” is used to describe online interfaces in websites and apps designed to intentionally manipulate users into taking actions they would otherwise not. These design tactics, drawn from extensive behavioral psychology research, are frequently used by social media platforms to mislead consumers into agreeing to settings and practices advantageous to the company. 

“For years dark patterns have allowed social media companies to use deceptive tactics to convince users to hand over personal data without understanding what they are consenting to. The DETOUR Act will end this practice while working to instill some level of transparency and oversight that the tech world currently lacks,” said Sen. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former technology executive. “Consumers should be able to make their own informed choices on when to share personal information without having to navigate intentionally misleading interfaces and design features deployed by social media companies.” 

Manipulative user interfaces that confuse people and trick consumers into sharing access to their personal information have become all too common online. Our bipartisan legislation would rein in the use of these dishonest interfaces and boost consumer trust. It’s time we put an end to ‘dark patterns’ and other manipulative practices to protect children online and ensure the American people can better protect their personal data, said Sen. Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

“Dark patterns are manipulative tactics used to trick consumers into sharing their personal data. These tactics undermine consumers’ autonomy and privacy, yet they are becoming pervasive on many online platforms. This legislation would help prevent the major online platforms from using such manipulative tactics to mislead consumers, and it would prohibit behavioral experiments on users without their informed consent,” said Sen. Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees.

“We live in an environment where large online operators often deploy manipulative practices or ‘dark patterns’ to obtain consent to collect user data,” said Sen. Thune, ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband. “This bipartisan legislation would create a path forward to strengthen consumer transparency by holding large online operators accountable when they subject their users to behavioral or psychological research for the purpose of promoting engagement on their platforms.”

“My colleagues and I are introducing the DETOUR Act because Congress and the American public are tired of tech companies evading scrutiny and avoiding accountability for their actions. Despite congressional hearings and public outcries, many of these tech companies continue to trick and manipulate people into making choices against their own self-interest,” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. “Our bill would address some common tactics these companies use, like intentionally deceptive user interfaces that trick people into handing over their personal information. Our children, seniors, veterans, people of color, even our very way of life is at stake. We must act. And today, we are.”

“Social media has connected our communities, but also had detrimental effects on our society. Big tech companies that control these platforms currently have unregulated access to a wealth of information about their users and have used nontransparent methods, such as dark patterns, to gather additional information and manipulate users,” said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez. “The DETOUR Act would make these platforms more transparent through prohibiting the use of dark patterns. We live in a transformative period of technology, and it is important that the tech which permeates our day to day lives is transparent.”

Dark patterns can take various forms, often exploiting the power of defaults to push users into agreeing to terms stacked in favor of the service provider. Some examples of these actions include: a deliberate obscuring of alternative choices or settings through design or other means; the use of privacy settings that push users to ‘agree’ as the default option, while users looking for more privacy-friendly options often must click through a much longer process, detouring through multiple screens. Other times, users cannot find the alternative option, if it exists at all, and simply give up looking.

The result is that large online platforms have an unfair advantage over users and potential competitors in forcing consumers to give up personal data such as their contacts, messages, web activity, or location to the benefit of the company.

“Tech companies have clearly demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to self-regulate.  So many companies choose to utilize manipulative design features that trick kids into giving up more personal information and compulsive usage of their platforms for the sake of increasing their profits and engagement without regard for the harm it inflicts on kids,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense. “Common Sense supports Senators Warner and Fischer and Representatives Blunt Rochester and Gonzalez on this bill, which would rightfully hold companies accountable for these practices so kids can have a healthier and safer online experience.”

“'Dark patterns' and manipulative design techniques on the internet deceive consumers. We need solutions that protect people online and empower consumers to shape their own experience. We appreciate Senator Warner and Senator Fischer's work to address these misleading practices,” said Jenn Taylor Hodges, Head of U.S. Public Policy at Mozilla.

“Manipulative design, efforts to undermine users’ independent decision making, and secret psychological experiments conducted by corporations are everywhere online. The exploitative commercial surveillance model thrives on taking advantage of unsuspecting users. The DETOUR Act would put a stop to this: prohibiting online companies from designing their services to impair autonomy and to cultivate compulsive usage by children under 13. It would also prohibit companies from conducting online user experiments without consent. If enacted, the DETOUR Act will make an important contribution to living in a fairer and more civilized digital world,” said Katharina Kopp, Director of Policy at Center for Digital Democracy.

The Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act aims to curb manipulative behavior by prohibiting the largest online platforms (those with over 100 million monthly active users) from relying on user interfaces that intentionally impair user autonomy, decision-making, or choice. The legislation:

  • Prohibits large online operators from designing, modifying, or manipulating user interface with the purpose or substantial effect of obscuring, subverting, or impairing user autonomy, decision-making, or choice to obtain consent or user data
  • Prohibits subdividing or segmenting consumers for the purposes of behavioral experiments without a consumer’s informed consent, which cannot be buried in a general contract or service agreement. This includes routine disclosures for large online operators, not less than once every 90 days, on any behavioral or psychological experiments to users and the public. Additionally, the bill would require large online operators to create an internal Independent Review Board to provide oversight on these practices to safeguard consumer welfare.
  • Prohibits user design intended to create compulsive usage among children under the age of 13 years old (as currently defined by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act).
  • Directs the FTC to create rules within one year of enactment to carry out the requirements related to informed consent, Independent Review Boards, and Professional Standards Bodies.

Sen. Warner first introduced the DETOUR ACT in 2019 and has been raising concerns about the implications of social media companies’ reliance on dark patterns for years. In 2014, Sen. Warner asked the FTC to investigate Facebook’s use of dark patterns in an experiment involving nearly 700,000 users designed to study the emotional impact of manipulating information on their News Feeds.

Sen. Warner is one of Congress’ leading voices in demanding accountability and user protections from social media companies. In addition to the DETOUR Act, Sen. Warner has introduced and written numerous bills aimed designed to improve transparency, privacy, and accountability on social media. These include the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Actlegislation that allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment, and discrimination across platforms; the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, bipartisan legislation that would require data harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit; and the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act, legislation that would encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and to allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose.

Full text of the bill is available here

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Marco Rubio (R-FL) Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai, highlighting the importance of reconvening trade agreement talks with Taiwan. 

“We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan,” the Senators wrote

“Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like,” the Senators continued.

“Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need,” the Senators concluded

Joining Warner and Rubio in sending the letter were Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chris Coons (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Todd Young (R-IN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Rick Scott (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Braun (R-IN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), James Lankford (R-OK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Bill Hagerty (R-TN).

 

Dear Ambassador Tai:

As you move to establish your early priorities, we are pleased to see that the resumption of talks with Taiwan under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) is among your areas of focus. The last TIFA meeting was held in October 2016, which is far too long ago when one considers Taiwan’s importance as a trade partner to the United States. For this reason, we were gratified to see reports that you held a virtual meeting with Taiwan’s top trade official, John Deng, on June 9, 2021 and committed to reconvene TIFA talks in the coming weeks. We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan. 

In August 2020, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced her intention to remove, and later removed, what had been a major obstacle to the pursuit of a FTA: import restrictions on certain U.S. beef and pork products. It is now time for the United States to reciprocate and begin negotiations. It is clear that the United States stands to gain much in doing so. 

Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like. It will facilitate free trade under fair conditions that allow American workers, producers, and companies alike to flourish. Advanced economies such as Singapore and New Zealand have paved the way by signing their own FTAs with Taiwan. 

Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need. Despite Beijing’s endless efforts to isolate and bully, Taiwan remains everything we want the Indo-Pacific region to be: a democratic, free market economy that is a reliable partner to the United States. Lastly, trade talks with Taiwan are also of great strategic importance. Maintaining U.S. economic influence in the region and reducing Taiwan’s dependence on China is essential to ensuring that the region remains free and open. 

Thank you again for committing to resume TIFA talks with Taiwan in the coming weeks. We appreciate your continued attention to this important matter. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and James Inhofe (R-OK) and a bipartisan group of 38 senators in urging the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to include robust funding for the EDA in fiscal year 2022 appropriations legislation.

The EDA is designed to create jobs and stimulate the economy in areas of the country that need the most help—both rural and urban—and has played an integral role so far in America’s recovery from the economic fallout of the pandemic. 

“With a modest budget, EDA programs have developed a record of making strategic investments and building community and regional partnerships to expand business in areas such as advanced manufacturing, science, health care, and technology. Between FY12 and FY19, EDA has invested over $2.283 billion in 5,471 projects to help build the capacity for locally-driven economic development projects. These projects are expected to create and/or retain 335,620 jobs and attract over $47.1 billion in private investment,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Many communities, especially those in rural areas, have benefited from EDA grants to support the job skills training, technical assistance, and infrastructure improvements needed to attract new businesses and ensure existing businesses have the opportunity to adapt to changing market circumstances. EDA has invested nearly 60 percent of its funds in rural areas since FY12, which has leveraged over $13.7 billion in private investment in these communities,” the senators continued.

In addition to Warner, Merkley, and Inhofe, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Robert Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tammy Duckworth (D-WI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), James Risch (R-ID), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is available here and follows below.

 

Dear Chair Shaheen and Ranking Member Moran,

As you begin work preparing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, we urge you to include robust funding for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and its vital grant programs.

Since 1965, EDA has helped local and regional stakeholders address the economic and infrastructure needs of communities across the country, focusing on private-sector job creation and economic growth in distressed areas.

With a modest budget, EDA programs have developed a record of making strategic investments and building community and regional partnerships to expand business in areas such as advanced manufacturing, science, health care, and technology. Between FY12 and FY19, EDA has invested over $2.283 billion in 5,471 projects to help build the capacity for locally-driven economic development projects. These projects are expected to create and/or retain 335,620 jobs and attract over $47.1 billion in private investment. 

Many communities, especially those in rural areas, have benefited from EDA grants to support the job skills training, technical assistance, and infrastructure improvements needed to attract new businesses and ensure existing businesses have the opportunity to adapt to changing market circumstances. EDA has invested nearly 60 percent of its funds in rural areas since FY12, which has leveraged over $13.7 billion in private investment in these communities.

EDA is useful in supporting job creation and innovation, particularly in distressed and disadvantaged communities. This aligns with the Administration’s goals of building back stronger, more resilient economies. The agency is also a great tool that helps small businesses recover and communities rebuild critical infrastructure and economic development assets following natural disasters or public health emergencies. 

As Congress has done in past fiscal years, we encourage you to include robust funding for the Economic Development Administration and its grant programs in the FY22 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. We look forward to working with you to ensure the success of the EDA, which has an exceptional record of supporting local communities across the nation to cost-effectively promote economic development.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in urging the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to side with American workers and fully and fairly enforce U.S. trade remedy laws. In a bipartisan letter to the ITC, Warner, Brown, and Portman led their colleagues in pressing the ITC to give full and fair consideration to the United Steelworker’s petitions in these cases of unfairly traded imports. Warner, Brown, and Portman led this letter with Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Todd Young (R-IN), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Boozman (R-AR), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA).

“U.S. trade remedy laws are intended to provide relief to U.S. companies and their workers when they are undermined by unfairly traded imports.  We urge you to give full and fair consideration to the USW petitions in these cases and to ensure U.S. trade remedy laws are fully enforced,” the Senators wrote.

For years, United Steelworkers at tire companies including Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio, have found themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage due to unfairly traded foreign imports. The United Steelworkers’ trade petitions seeks to secure relief for their members in the tire industry to ensure the U.S. tire industry can compete on a level playing field.  

Full text of the letter is available here and below: 

The Honorable Jason Kearns

Chairman

United States International Trade Commission

500 E Street, SW

Washington, D.C. 20436

Dear Chairman Kearns:

We write on behalf of U.S. passenger vehicle and lightweight tire (PVLT) manufacturers and their workers who face ongoing challenges from unfairly traded tire imports in the above referenced cases and to reiterate our support for strong enforcement of U.S. trade remedy laws.  

The U.S. tire industry has been marked by unfair trade from foreign competitors for years.  In 2009, President Obama imposed Section 421 tariffs on Chinese tire imports to address the systemic dumping of tires in the U.S. market.  After the tariffs expired, USW tire-producing members again faced unfair competition, and the union filed antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty petitions in 2014.  AD and CVD orders have been in place on certain Chinese PVLT imports since.  Unfortunately, other foreign competitors are employing unfair practices to gain market share in the U.S. while Chinese tire imports face additional duties.  As a result, the USW union recently filed the AD and CVD petitions against tire producers in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

U.S. trade remedy laws are intended to provide relief to U.S. companies and their workers when they are undermined by unfairly traded imports.  We urge you to give full and fair consideration to the USW petitions in these cases and to ensure U.S. trade remedy laws are fully enforced.  

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, urging the Trump Administration to refrain from including sweeping liability protection language modeled on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in a trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom.

“We are optimistic that a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom will ensure fair, balanced, and reciprocal trade. But we want to note that we have concerns with the inclusion of safe harbor language modeled on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996,” wrote the Senators. “Including a safe harbor clause in any future trade agreements will further allocate more power to companies at the expense of individuals.”

They continued, Congress can and should debate about Section 230 and how it has enabled platforms to turn a blind eye as their platforms are used to facilitate discrimination, cyber-stalking, terrorism, online frauds, and more. We urge USTR to refrain from including this provision in this and future free trade agreements until that debate has concluded.” 

A copy of the letter is available here and text can be found below.

 

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

We support strengthening trade relations between the United States and the United Kingdom through a potential free trade agreement. That relationship would not be improved, however, by a trade agreement that includes “safe harbor” language similar to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

As an initial matter, Congress is not requesting, let alone requiring, the Administration to include this type of liability protection in our trade agreements. Trade promotion authority, which establishes the United States’ negotiating objectives for trade agreements, calls for “recogniz[ing] the significance of the internet as a trading platform in international commerce” – not for providing blanket immunity to bad actors because the wrongful conduct took place on the internet. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that such “safe harbor” language actually facilitates U.S. trade policy interests, particularly with respect to a country like the United Kingdom that has a strong rule of law tradition. Instead, the blanket immunity provided by measures like Section 230 allows platforms to escape liability for directly enabling heinous conduct such as online frauds, cyber-stalking, terrorism, and child abuse. Not surprisingly, neither the U.S. Congress nor the UK Parliament are seeking to export this type of immunity. Instead, they are undertaking vigorous debates regarding the proper oversight, transparency, and effective management of digital communications technologies. 

Domestically, there is bipartisan consensus around the need to address illegal behavior online. Many Members of Congress, as well as the Department of Justice, have offered bills to reform Section 230. The United Kingdom unveiled its long-awaited “Online Harms” regulation, which would create a new regulatory framework to address unlawful and harmful online content. In parallel, the United Kingdom also passed a law last year that, once fully implemented, will establish a code of practice to protect children from exposure to harmful online content.

Congress passed Section 230 as part of wider legislation in 1996. The internet has changed dramatically since then and, accordingly, Section 230 has not aged well. As legislators proceed to review and examine the issues surrounding internet platform liability, it is unnecessary—and inappropriate—to tie their hands by making Section 230-style immunity an international obligation of our respective countries. 

We remain excited by the opportunities presented by a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom. We want our Special Relationship to be as strong economically as it is politically. But inclusion of a “safe harbor” clause in either negotiations or a final agreement is frankly unhelpful to achieving that goal. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the Virginia Port Authority will receive $20,184,999 in federal funds to complete its Central Rail Yard (CRY) expansion project at Norfolk International Terminals (NIT). This funding will build on the investments the Port has made across its two largest terminals, the NIT and Virginia International Gateway (VIG), to expand on-terminal rail capacity at NIT.

“The Port of Virginia is a major economic engine for the entire Commonwealth,” said the Senators. “These federal funds will support an important expansion at the Port that will increase the Port’s competitiveness and efficiency and allow it to continue to serve manufacturers and farmers in Virginia and across the country.”

The Port of Virginia is a major gateway for U.S. inland and Midwest markets. The Port handles a higher percentage of rail cargo than any other port on the East Coast. Thirty-four percent of the cargo processed at the Port arrives and departs via rail. 

This grant supports the construction of two new rail bundles containing four tracks each, in addition to a center working area for transferring and staging containers. Associated lead-in tracks will incorporate turnouts and switches from the terminal’s main rail line and vehicle crossings. Additionally, the project will create a return access road that will separate rail dray traffic returning to the container yard from general truck traffic.

The NIT CRY expansion project would double the 368,000 annual container capacity of the existing CRY. The new rail bundles are projected to generate $112.1 million in total economic benefits.

The funding was awarded through the 2020 Port Infrastructure Development Discretionary Grants Program at the U.S. Department of Transportation. In May 2020, Warner and Kaine joined the entire Virginia congressional delegation in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, advocating for the project. Additionally, in August, Sen. Warner again wrote to the Secretary in support of the funding that was announced today. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a senior Member of Senate Commerce Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights and Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), sent a letter to  Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons urging the FTC to take action to address the troubling data collection and sharing practices of the mobile application (“app”) Premom. 

Premom is a mobile app that helps users track their fertility cycles to determine the best time to get pregnant, relying on personal and private health information. As of November 2019, the app has been downloaded over half a million times, and it is one of the top search results among fertility apps in the Apple App and Google Play stores.

In addition to Sen. Warner, Sens. Klobuchar and Moran were joined by Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“A recent investigation from the International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC) indicated that Premom may have engaged in deceptive consumer data collection and processing, and that there may be material differences between Premom’s stated privacy policies and its actual data-sharing practices. Most troubling, the investigation found that Premom shared its users’ data without their consent,” Klobuchar and her colleagues wrote.

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:

Dear Chairman Simons:

We write to express our serious concerns regarding recent reports about the data collection and sharing practices of the mobile application (“app”) Premom and to request information on the steps that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans to take to address this issue.

Premom is a mobile app that helps users track their fertility cycles to determine the best time to get pregnant. As of November 2019, the app has been downloaded over half a million times, and it is one of the top search results among fertility apps in the leading app stores. To use Premom, users provide the app extensive personal and private health information.

A recent investigation from the International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC) indicated that Premom may have engaged in deceptive consumer data collection and processing, and that there may be material differences between Premom’s stated privacy policies and its actual data-sharing practices. Most troubling, the investigation found that Premom shared its users’ data without their consent. IDAC sent a letter to the FTC on August 6, 2020, to describe these undisclosed data transmissions along with other concerning allegations including conflicting privacy policies and questionable representations related to their collection of installed apps for functionality purposes.

While Premom claimed to only share “nonidentifiable” information in its privacy policy, the IDAC report found that Premom collected and shared—with three third-party advertising companies based in China including Jiguang, UMSNS, and Umeng—non-resettable unique user device identifiers that can be used to build profiles of consumer behavior. Additionally, users of the Premom app were not given the option to opt out of sharing their personal data with these advertising companies, and reports also allege that one of the companies that received user data from Premom concealed the data being transferred—which privacy experts say is an uncommon practice for apps that is used primarily to conceal their data collection practices.

While we understand that Premom has taken steps to update its app to halt the sharing of its users’ information with these companies, it is concerning that Premom may have engaged in these deceptive practices and shared users’ personal data without their consent. Additionally, there may still be users who have not yet updated the Premom app, which could still be sharing their personal data—without their knowledge or consent. 

In light of these concerning reports, and given the critical role that the FTC plays in enforcing federal laws that protect consumer privacy and data under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act and other sector specific laws, we respectfully ask that you respond to the following questions:

1.  Does the FTC treat persistent identifiers, such as the non-resettable device hardware identifiers discussed in the IDAC report, as personally identifiable information in relation to its general consumer data security and privacy enforcement authorities under Section 5 of the FTC Act?

2.  Is the FTC currently investigating or does it plan to investigate Premom’s consumer data collection, transmission, and processing conduct described in the IDAC report to determine if the company has engaged in deceptive practices?

3.  Does the FTC plan to take any steps to educate users of the Premom app that the app may still be sharing their personal data without their permission if they have not updated the app? If not, does the FTC plan to require Premom to conduct such outreach?

4.  Please describe any unique or practically uncommon uses of encryption by the involved third-party companies receiving information from Premom that could be functionally interpreted to obfuscate oversight of the involved data transmissions.

5.  How can the FTC use its Section 5 authority to ensure that mobile apps are not deceiving consumers about their data collection and sharing practices and to preempt future potentially deceptive practices like those Premom may have engaged in? 

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to improve Americans consumers’ data privacy protections. 

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09) and a number of colleagues in introducing bicameral legislation to establish an Inspector General (IG) for the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to provide independent oversight, and increase transparency and accountability at the agency which has recently come under increased scrutiny over reports and allegations of political favoritism, inconsistent policy implementation and conflicts of interest.

“Americans deserve honest and transparent trade policy,” said Sen. Menendez. “Recent reports of political favoritism, opaque decision-making, and conflicts of interest highlight just how dangerous it can be when an Administration hides public business from the American people. This bill will help ensure that trade policy is determined by our country’s economic interests – and no one else’s.”

“Sunlight remains the ultimate disinfectant, and that is especially true when it comes to our trade policy,” said Rep. Pascrell. “Our nation’s trade policies impact virtually every aspect of our economy and so Americans deserve to know that they are being formulated free of tainting influences and double-dealing. The opaqueness and outright corruption of Trump’s regime has revealed the need for a watchdog in all corners of our government. Our bill will ensure our trade policy will not be wielded for personal or political gain.”

In a June hearing, Sen. Menendez confronted USTR Robert Lighthizer over allegations that President Trump asked Chinese President Xi to make agricultural purchases to help him in the election. "Because if it's true, it shows how clear it is that the administration doesn't really have any intention of actually solving our trade problems with China,” Menendez said.

USTR’s Section 301 China tariff exclusion process has raised concerns over its lack of transparency, inconsistent decision-making, and political favoritism. Further, in June, Bloomberg reported that two USTR employees who helped negotiate USMCA may have violated federal law barring conflicts of interest when they offered their services as private-sector advisers to future clients while still on the federal payroll.

USTR is one of the only cabinet-level agencies without an IG, which means decisions that impact billions of dollars in trade are currently without the same degree of oversight as other federal agencies.

The legislation is co-sponsored by all the Democratic Finance Committee members, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.). Reps. Sanford Bishop (Ga.-02), Peter DeFazio (Ore.-04), Alcee Hastings (Fla.-20), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio-09), Jim McGovern (Mass.-02), Frank Pallone (N.J.-06), Jose Serrano (N.Y.-15) and Judy Chu (Calif.-27) are cosponsoring the companion bill in the House.

The USTR Inspector General Act of 2020 would:

  • Establish a statutory IG for the United States Trade Representative under the Inspector General Act of 1978, similar to IGs for the Departments of Commerce, Defense, State, Justice, Treasury, etc. to perform independent oversight, improve transparency and accountability, and crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse;
  • Require the president to appoint an individual to serve as USTR IG, subject to advice and consent of the Senate, not later than 120 days after enactment; and
  • Direct the USTR IG to commence an audit of the Section 301 China tariff exclusion process within 180 days of enactment.

A copy of the bill can be found here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement applauding Senate passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA):

“USMCA is an important, bipartisan win for Virginia. Expanding access to Canadian agricultural markets will open up new opportunities for Virginia farmers. Holding Mexican companies to higher labor and environmental standards will help level the playing field for American workers and companies. And efforts to streamline and modernize cross-border shipments will help the thousands of Virginia companies that already export to Mexico and Canada. This bill will help local economies in all corners of Virginia, and we were proud to vote for its passage today.”

Organizations that have announced their support for USMCA include: Virginia Chamber of Commerce, United Steelworkers Local 8888, Virginia Poultry Federation, Farm Credit of the Virginias, Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Maritime Association, Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia State Dairymen’s Association, Virginia Pork Council, Volvo Trucks New River Valley plant, UPS, STIHL Inc. in Virginia Beach, Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Eastman.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), member of the Senate Committee on Finance, addressed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) before voting in favor of the deal during a Finance Committee vote. In his opening remarks, Sen. Warner expressed optimism for the deal’s positive impact on Virginia’s farmers, but noted his concern regarding the Trump Administration’s erratic approach to trade, and the impact that these strained interactions could have on our nation’s relationship with key allies and partners abroad.

“I’m optimistic that this trade agreement will help American farmers, ports, manufacturers, retailers, and workers. As others have pointed out, the deal addresses issues like digital trade, that NAFTA couldn’t fully anticipate and decreases market barriers to agricultural products that have been huge points of concern for Virginia farmers,” said Sen. Warner in the committee hearing. “Overall, I’m hopeful that this agreement will provide the consistency and stability that the business community needs. At the same time, I worry that the process that led us to this point may result in reduced U.S. credibility and trust from our allies and closest trading partners. Throughout the negotiation process, the President’s efforts to levy tariffs on Canada and Mexico, and to make repeated threats to withdraw from NAFTA or to heedlessly close the border with Mexico, have exemplified the troubling and erratic approach to trade issues that we’ve seen from the Administration.”

He continued, “Alienating our closest allies with the misuse of national security tariffs is counterproductive and endangers American security. That is why Senator Toomey and I have offered the Bicameral Trade Authority Act, to curb abuses of 232 authority. I’m hopeful that with ratification of this deal will offer an opportunity for this committee to reexamine those efforts in a bipartisan fashion.”

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was officially signed by the three participating countries on November 30th, 2018. In the wake of pressure from Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi, the Trump Administration announced on December 9th the addition of new labor protections and enforcement provisions. Soon after, Sen. Warner announced his support of the USMCA, which intends to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The USMCA, which passed the House of Representatives by a 385-41 vote, awaits consideration in the Senate.

 

Sen. Warner’s remarks are available below:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As we all know, strong trading relationships improve our nation’s economy. I’m optimistic that this trade agreement will help American farmers, ports, manufacturers, retailers, and workers. As others have pointed out, the deal addresses issues like digital trade, that NAFTA couldn’t fully anticipate and decreases market barriers to agricultural products that have been huge points of concern for Virginia farmers.

I want to add congratulations to Ranking Member Wyden, Senator Brown and our House colleagues, because now this agreement finally includes strong labor protections to ensure that companies in our partner nations are held accountable and that American workers can compete on a level playing field.

Overall, I’m hopeful that this agreement will provide the consistency and stability that the business community needs.

At the same time, I worry that the process that led us to this point may result in reduced U.S. credibility and trust from our allies and closest trading partners. Throughout the negotiation process, the President’s efforts to levy tariffs on Canada and Mexico, and to make repeated threats to withdraw from NAFTA or to heedlessly close the border with Mexico, have exemplified the troubling and erratic approach to trade issues that we’ve seen from the Administration.

Our trade relationships are a key form of diplomacy, allowing us to increase U.S. influence abroad and deepen our relationships with foreign partners in ways that benefit not just American prosperity but U.S. security and leadership. Alienating our closest allies with the misuse of national security tariffs is counterproductive and endangers American security. That is why Senator Toomey and I have offered the Bicameral Trade Authority Act, to curb abuses of 232 authority. I’m hopeful that with ratification of this deal will offer an opportunity for this committee to reexamine those efforts in a bipartisan fashion.

Finally, and I made an agreement with the ranking member not to raise this issue during these considerations but I do want to take note that I have serious concerns with the inclusion of safe harbor language modeled on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Congress is beginning, at this point, an important bipartisan debate about whether section 230 is working as intended. And many, including many prominent civil rights groups, believe that section 230 has allowed internet intermediaries to ignore misuse of their platforms by bad actors. This is an issue that I think needs our attention and that I hope we can revisit in a bipartisan way. Again, I commend everybody who worked on this.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded the news that the Chinese government will lift the import ban on U.S. poultry products that has been in place since 2015, effective immediately.

“For years, we have raised concerns about China’s unfair ban on U.S. poultry products and today’s announcement that the ban will be lifted, effective immediately, is great news for Virginia poultry producers,” said the Senators. “While we’re pleased by today’s news that this unreasonable and arbitrary policy will be reversed, we remain deeply concerned that the Trump Administration still appears to lack a comprehensive strategy to deal with China’s unfair trade practices and the long-term threats to U.S. jobs and national security posed by China’s rampant intellectual property theft and economic espionage. We strongly urge the President not to lose sight of those important goals, or the pain the Administration’s tariffs continue to cause for many of Virginia’s businesses, workers and consumers.”

In July 2017, Sen. Warner and Sen. Kaine sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, urging the Trump Administration to push the Chinese government to end its ban on the sale of American poultry products. In February of this year, Sen. Warner and eight other bipartisan Senators sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, calling on the Trump Administration to reach a trade agreement with China lifting the ban on U.S. poultry and other barriers to U.S. agriculture products while also addressing issues such as Chinese intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, and unfair subsidies for state-owned enterprises.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after China announced that it will instate additional retaliatory tariffs starting September 1 in response to President Trump’s plans to impose additional levies on Chinese goods:

“Time and time again, we have warned President Trump against escalating a trade war with China. Trade wars yield no winners and hurt consumers and producers all over the Commonwealth, especially the farmers and small business owners who count on Chinese demand for products grown in Virginia. We’re even seeing devastating second-order effects of this trade war, with the possibility that fires in the Amazon are being deliberately set to clear land for soybean exports to China. While the U.S. must absolutely crack down on China for its illegal trade practices, we can’t afford to do so in an incoherent and erratic way. Today’s announcement shows once again that the Trump Administration’s bizarre trade policies destabilize the economy, put the livelihoods of many Americans at risk, undermine global stability, and fundamentally fail to hold China accountable for its unfair practices.” 

According to an announcement by the Chinese finance ministry, China’s tariffs will range from five to ten percent on items such as agricultural products, apparel, chemicals, and textiles, in addition to a 25 percent tariff on automobiles and a five percent tariff on automobile parts. These levies are scheduled to take effect on September 1 and December 15, matching the dates of the President’s most recent tariffs.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have continuously warned the Trump Administration about how its haphazard approach on trade hurts Virginia’s families, businesses, and economy. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), China is the Commonwealth’s number-one agricultural export market for soybeans. In 2018, Virginia exported more than $58 million soybean products to China – an 83 percent decrease from 2017.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after President Trump announced his plan to impose an additional 10 percent tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods beginning September 1:

“We continue to have grave concerns regarding this Administration’s nonexistent trade strategy. Let’s be clear: trade policy should not be done through tweet; it should be through thoughtful collaboration with our allies to address China’s unfair trade practices. Instead, today’s erratic reversal on trade will only raise prices for Virginians and give China motivation to retaliate, which would further hit Virginia's already-hurting agricultural producers even harder. For years, China has been one of Virginia’s top agricultural customers, but escalating the trade war will only continue to threaten a critical industry that’s borne the brunt of this incoherent strategy.”

Sens. Warner and Kaine have continued to warn the Trump Administration about how its haphazard approach on trade hurts Virginia’s families, businesses, and economy. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), China is Virginia’s number-one agricultural export market for soybeans. In 2018, Virginia exported more than $58 million soybean products to China – an 83 percent decrease from 2017.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) have joined Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) in cosponsoring legislation to protect the decennial census from partisan whims aimed at intimidating respondents and curbing participation. The Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (Census IDEA) Act will help safeguard the integrity of the 2020 census by ensuring that any proposed changes to the count are adequately studied and researched prior to being added to the questionnaire. This follows a United States Supreme Court decision on June 27 that blocked the Trump Administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, citing insufficient justification for adding the question.

“The census is a critical undertaking in our democracy that helps determine the number of representatives and federal dollars given to states. Additionally, many businesses rely on census population data to decide where to open new stores, buy advertising, or deploy wireless broadband infrastructure. Therefore, it’s extremely important that we ensure the accuracy of the count and prevent it from being shaped by political motives,” said the Senators. “This bill will ensure that any additional question be presented with enough time for Congress to review its effects and help keep the census an independent tool for the American people.”

Last year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross proposed adding a question to the census that would ask respondents about their citizenship status, likely preventing individuals from responding and thus drastically undercounting people in many immigrant and Latino communities. The Census Bureau’s own estimates indicate that the inclusion of a citizenship question would prompt a 2.2 percent drop in census responses – including an 8 percent drop in participation by households with at least one non-citizen. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to block this question, the Justice Department moved to replace its team of lawyers on the case – a move that was also rejected on Tuesday by a federal judge who cited a lack of satisfactory reasons for the swap.

In order to ensure the integrity of the census, the Census IDEA Act would:

  • Prevent last-minute operational changes that have not been properly researched, studied, and tested at least 3 years prior to the next decennial census date;
  • Ensure that subjects, types of information, and questions that have not been submitted to Congress according to existing law are not included;
  • Require biannual reports on the U.S. Census Bureau’s operation plan, including the status of its research and testing; a report on the agency’s operational plan 5 years prior to the next decennial census; and require that these reports be publicly available on the Bureau’s website;
  • Direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office to determine and report to Congress that the subjects, types of information, and questions on the decennial census have been researched, studied, and tested to the same degree as previous decennial censuses; and
  • Apply the provisions of this bill only to the decennial census, and not the mid-decade census or the American Community Survey.

Sens. Warner and Kaine, who sponsored this bill last Congress, have opposed politically motivated efforts to change longstanding practices in asking about citizenship status and have advocated for robust funding for the 2020 census. Last month, Sen. Warner joined Sen. Schatz and 27 other Senators in calling for Secretary Ross to meet the administration’s previously set deadline of July 1 to begin printing materials for the 2020 Census.

The Census IDEA Act has the support of the American Anthropological Association, American Civil Liberties Union, American Sociological Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Coalition on Human Needs, Common Cause, Consortium of Social Science Associations, Japanese American Citizens League, NAACP LDF, NALEO Educational Fund, National Education Association, National Employment Law Project, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Urban League, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Service Employees International Union, Society for Research in Child Development, and Union of Concerned Scientists.

Other cosponsors of the Census IDEA Act include U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today joined Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and 27 other senators in calling for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to meet the administration’s previously set deadline of July 1 to begin printing materials for the 2020 Census and move forward without adding a politically motivated question about citizenship.

Their call comes a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s rationale for adding the question “appears to have been contrived.” President Trump also announced on Twitter yesterday that he had asked his lawyers to delay the Census.

“By continuing to pursue the citizenship question, you will further delay and jeopardize the Census Bureau’s ability to conduct a full, fair, and accurate decennial census as required by the U.S. Constitution and the Census Act,” the senators wrote in a letter to Secretary Ross. “We urge you to stop all efforts to add a citizenship question and allow the Census Bureau to proceed with preparation for a 2020 census without a citizenship question on the questionnaire.”

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

 

Dear Secretary Ross:

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Department of Commerce v. New York State, we urge you to uphold the rule of law and respect the Court’s decision. By continuing to pursue the citizenship question, you will further delay and jeopardize the Census Bureau’s ability to conduct a full, fair, and accurate decennial census as required by the U.S. Constitution and the Census Act. We urge you to stop all efforts to add a citizenship question and allow the Census Bureau to proceed with preparation for a 2020 census without a citizenship question on the questionnaire.

As a constitutionally mandated activity, the decennial census is a cornerstone of our democracy. We have one chance to get the count right and must complete the task on time to meet constitutional and legal requirements for congressional apportionment and redistricting. The 2020 Census is less than half a year away, and any unnecessary delay in operations would impact the ability of the Census Bureau to count every person in our country. We urge you to remove the citizenship question, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) will introduce the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, bipartisan legislation that will require data harvesting companies such as social media platforms to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers, and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit.

“For years, social media companies have told consumers that their products are free to the user. But that’s not true – you are paying with your data instead of your wallet,” said Sen. Warner. “But the overall lack of transparency and disclosure in this market have made it impossible for users to know what they’re giving up, who else their data is being shared with, or what it’s worth to the platform. Our bipartisan bill will allow consumers to understand the true value of the data they are providing to the platforms, which will encourage competition and allow antitrust enforcers to identify potentially anticompetitive practices.”

“When a big tech company says its product is free, consumers are the ones being sold. These 'free' products track everything we do so tech companies can sell our information to the highest bidder and use it to target us with creepy ads,” said Sen. Hawley. “Even worse, tech companies do their best to hide how much consumer data is worth and to whom it is sold. This bipartisan legislation gives consumers control of their data and will show them how much these 'free' services actually cost.”

As user data increasingly represents one of the most valuable, albeit intangible, assets held by technology firms, shining light on how this data is collected, retained, monetized, and protected, is critical. The DASHBOARD Act will:

  • Require commercial data operators (defined as services with over 100 million monthly active users) to disclose types of data collected as well as regularly provide their users with an assessment of the value of that data.
  • Require commercial data operators to file an annual report on the aggregate value of user data they’ve collected, as well as contracts with third parties involving data collection.
  • Require commercial data operators to allow users to delete all, or individual fields, of data collected – and disclose to users all the ways in which their data is being used. including any uses not directly related to the online service for which the data was originally collected.
  • Empower the SEC to develop methodologies for calculating data value, while encouraging the agency to facilitate flexibility to enable businesses to adopt methodologies that reflect the different uses, sectors, and business models.

The DASHBOARD Act is the second tech-focused bill Hawley and Warner have partnered on. The first was Hawley’s Do Not Track Act, which would be modeled after the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) “Do Not Call” list and allow users to opt out of non-essential data collection.

A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here. Bill text is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Marco Rubio (R-FL), member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed deep concern that the Trump Administration may concede on important national security matters related to the development of fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technology (5G) in order to achieve a favorable outcome on trade negotiations. In a letter to the U.S. Department of State and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Senators underscored the threats posed by Chinese telecommunications equipment to network security, data privacy, and economic security across the globe, and emphasized the need to keep trade negotiations separate from any changes in policy concerning national security threats posed by Huawei.

“Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security,” the Senators wrote. “In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings.”

Sens. Warner and Rubio reiterated their support for existing U.S. efforts to convey the long-term security risks posed by Chinese telecommunications firms to allies and partners abroad. However, the Senators expressed concern that this message is being undermined by President Trump, whose Administration reversed a seven-year ban on ZTE last year in defiance of a Commerce Department recommendation, and who in late May indicated that Huawei could be included in a future trade deal. In the letter, the Senators also emphasized that any modifications of Huawei’s Temporary General License must be pursued in a risk-based way, separate from trade negotiations, and without undermining national security.  

As a former telecommunications executive who introduced bipartisan legislation on 5G, Sen. Warner continues to be a leading voice on the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. In December, Sens. Warner and Rubio urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in Canada’s fifth-generation network. In January, Sens. Warner and Rubio teamed up to introduce legislation to combat tech-specific, national security threats posed by foreign actors like China, and establish a whole-of-government strategy to protect the U.S. from technology theft. Additionally, Sen. Warner led legislation with Sen. Wicker to provide $700 million for rural telecommunications providers in order to offset the costs of removing equipment from vendors that pose a security threat, such as Huawei.

The full text of the letter appears below. A copy of the letter is available here.

June 13, 2019
 
Secretary Michael Pompeo
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
 
Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
 

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer:

We are writing to express our deep concern that the Administration may concede on important national security matters related to Huawei Technologies, Inc. and the adoption of fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technology (5G) in order to achieve a favorable outcome in the Administration’s trade negotiations.

As Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), we have strongly supported efforts by our diplomats, military, and intelligence personnel to persuade allies and partners around the world that Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications firms present a long-term legitimate security threat to their network security, data privacy, and economic security.  As you know, Chinese telecommunications equipment poses a threat that intelligence and military officials assess will only become more acute as energy infrastructure, transportation networks and other critical functions move to 5G networks and as millions more Internet of things (IoT) devices are connected.

Despite the best efforts of our government to convince other countries to keep Huawei components out of their 5G infrastructure, our message is being undermined by concerns that we are not sincere.  For example, Europeans have publicly expressed fears that the Administration will soften its position on Huawei in the United States to gain leverage in trade talks, as the Administration did in June 2018 when the seven-year ban on ZTE was reversed and a new settlement agreement reached at the urging of President Xi over the recommendation of Commerce Department leadership.  The President himself reinforced these fears in late May, stating:

“Huawei is something that’s very dangerous.  You look at what they’ve done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint.  It’s very dangerous.  So it’s possible that Huawei even would be included in some kind of a trade deal.  If we made a deal, I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form of or some part of a trade deal.”

Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security.  In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings. Any modifications to Huawei’s Temporary General License must be pursued in a risk-based way, separate from any trade negotiations, and consistent with national security considerations. Successfully identifying and mitigating these security risks requires sustained coordination and alignment with our international partners, particularly the Europeans who represent key parts of the 5G supply chain, and India, which is poised to be the single-largest telecommunications market. Conflating national security concerns with levers in trade negotiations undermines this effort, and endangers American security.

We appreciate your attention to this important matter of national security and request that you keep us apprised of your efforts.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement following President Trump’s announcement that, beginning on June 10, the U.S. will impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican imports. According to the Trump Administration, if Mexico does not stop immigrants from crossing the Southwest border, tariffs could incrementally increase to 25 percent by October 1 and remain at that level until the migration stops.

“President Trump’s escalating trade war will force families to pay more on everyday items and put 133,000 trade-supported Virginia jobs at risk. What this Administration fails to understand is that, just as Trump's family separation policy failed, hiking tariffs on Mexico won’t deter families escaping violence and instability in their native countries from crossing our border,” said the Senators. “Last year, Virginians saw the impact of retaliatory tariffs imposed by Mexico after this Administration imposed damaging steel and aluminum tariffs. Mexico continues to be an important trade partner for the Commonwealth, and strong-arming our allies will only hurt Virginians without solving our immigration challenges.”

Mexico is Virginia’s sixth-largest overall agricultural export market, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). In 2018, Mexico purchased more than $111 million in Virginia exports – a 3 percent decrease from 2017, a decline attributable in part to reckless trade and tariff Trump Administration policies. To ease the burden on Virginia businesses, manufacturers and consumers, Sen. Warner introduced and Sen. Kaine cosponsored bipartisan legislation that would restore Congress’ constitutional trade responsibilities. Sen. Kaine has also introduced legislation to limit the Trump Administration’s ability to levy tariffs without Congress.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal about the economic effect of the Trump Administration’s haphazard approach on tariffs.  In April, the Senators slammed President Trump after threatening – and later walking back – his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border.  To tackle the root causes of migration, the Senators introduced legislation to provide a coordinated response to the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle countries that have forced families to seek refuge in the U.S. They have also urged the Trump Administration to reverse its plan to cut national security funding to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after President Trump signed an executive order to ban American telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security:

 “This is a needed step, and reflects the reality that Huawei and ZTE represent a threat to the security of U.S. and allied communications networks. Under current Chinese security laws, these and other companies based in China are required to provide assistance to the Chinese state. This executive order places a great deal of authority in the Department of Commerce, which must ensure that it is implemented in a fair and responsible fashion as to not harm or stifle legitimate business activities. It should also be noted that we have yet to see a compelling strategy from this Administration on 5G, including how the Administration intends to work cooperatively with our allies and like-minded nations to ensure that international standards set for 5G reflect Western values and standards for security and privacy. Nor do we have a stated plan for replacing this equipment from existing commercial networks – a potentially multi-billion dollar effort that, if done ineptly, could have a major impact on broadband access in rural areas. A coherent coordinated and global approach is critically needed as nations and telecom providers move to implement 5G.”

 As a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, Sen. Warner has been a leading voice in the Senate regarding the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. He is the lead sponsor of the Secure 5G and Beyond Actlegislation to require the President to ensure the security of next-gen mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure in the United States. He also introduced a bipartisan bill in January to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China. Additionally, Sen. Warner called on the Trump Administration last week to promote U.S. leadership and strengthen diplomatic efforts around the development of a secure 5G architecture that challenges Huawei’s monopoly over the next generation of telecoms networks.

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after President Trump escalated the ongoing U.S. - China trade war by imposing a 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports. In retaliation, China announced that it is raising tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. products beginning on June 1.

“It’s been more than a year since President Trump first launched a haphazard, ill-planned trade war with China that raised taxes on a number of Virginia commodities. The escalation means continued uncertainty for Virginia’s soybean farmers, who continue to brace for the worst every time the word ‘tariffs’ is said in the Oval Office. With the Trump Administration slapping China with additional tariffs and China planning to hit the U.S. right back, there seems to be no solution in sight,” said the Senators. “It’s one thing to be tough on China’s unfair and illegal trade practices, but the longer this disastrous lack of a strategy continues, the more it’ll cost and the more of an impact it will have on Virginians’ bank accounts.” 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have raised concerns about how President Trump’s ongoing trade war could hurt Virginia businesses and families. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), China is Virginia’s number one agricultural export market for soybeans. In 2018, Virginia exported more than $58 million soybean products to China – an 83 percent decrease from 2017.

 

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WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling attention to China’s efforts to be the leading country driving the development of standards and norms related to Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Senators urged the Secretary to strengthen the Trump Administration’s diplomatic efforts around emerging technologies to make certain the United States leads in setting international standards and norms for the AI field in ways that are congruent with our nation’s interests and values. 

“Without an engaged United States, and close coordination with our allies, we have limited ability to set global standards for AI development and use, with potentially disastrous consequences,” wrote the Senators. “China, as an authoritarian regime that uses AI tools to monitor its citizens and parse through vast troves a data, is a significant threat to the personal freedoms of individuals around the globe.” 

Menendez and Warner concluded the letter by asking Secretary Pompeo to articulate “the U.S. vision for global standards, norms, and mechanisms for the use of artificial intelligence,” and posing a series of questions about critical issues relating to AI.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below:

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

 

We write to urge you to ensure the United States takes a leading role in developing international standards and norms for new and emergent innovations shaping the next generation of information technologies, in particular Artificial Intelligence (AI). Other countries are already shaping this conversation in ways that may be detrimental to U.S. interests. For example, later this month China is convening and hosting a UNESCO Conference on AI, underscoring China’s continued efforts to shape the debate and set the standards surrounding the future of AI. Even our allies are leading in this space, with the EU releasing guidelines for ethical AI development.

 

Emerging technologies such as AI represent the cutting edge of innovation and will facilitate critical advances in a wide range of fields, including health care, education, information processing, logistics, and security. At the same time, these technologies will present enormous challenges, whether in job displacement, algorithmic discrimination, privacy, or cybersecurity (as adversaries exploit these tools, too). The United States has long played a formative role in developing AI technologies.  In recent years, however, China has made significant progress in developing AI, with a stated goal of superseding the United States in this field by 2030.  China’s efforts, according to a study conducted by the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, are ahead of schedule, with the Institute highlighting that China has “surpassed the United States in published papers on artificial intelligence” and is “poised to overtake” the United States in terms of cited papers on the subject over the next few years.  Disturbingly, some of America’s most prominent technology companies have opened major AI research centers in China, potentially giving China’s military and intelligence arms access to cutting-edge technology. China’s continued robust investment in the field of AI has the potential to provide a strategic rival a critical technological edge.

 

China’s organization of the UNESCO conference on AI is yet another indication of its efforts to fundamentally shape global standards governing the future of AI and to drive the debate in the international community around an approach that uses AI tools to infringe on the rights of individuals throughout the globe and aid authoritarian regimes in suppressing its citizens.  Technologies are shaped by the values and norms that undergird their development. While a generation of ICT technologies developed by the U.S. and its allies have been shaped by our shared values and norms of openness, pluralism, fair competition, rule of law, security, and free expression, China’s development of AI has been shaped by fundamentally different values and norms, in service of objectives such as surveillance, censorship, and social control.

 

As I know you appreciate, it is critically important that as China attempts to capture primacy in the field of AI the United States works with our partners and allies to assert a position of leadership within the international community on this issue.  Without an engaged United States, and close coordination with our allies, we have limited ability to set global standards for AI development and use, with potentially disastrous consequences.  China, as an authoritarian regime that uses AI tools to monitor its citizens and parse through vast troves a data, is a significant threat to the personal freedoms of individuals around the globe.

 

Due to the issues raised by China’s efforts to set international standards in the field of AI that are not congruent with our interests and values, I am concerned the United States is not doing enough to promote United States leadership in establishing the norms and global governance for AI and other emerging technologies.  Consequently, I ask that you please respond to the following questions regarding U.S. efforts in the AI field:

 

  • What is the U.S. vision for global standards, norms, and mechanisms for the use of artificial intelligence, grounded in our values, including democracy, personal liberties, and the protection of human rights?
  • What U.S. efforts are currently underway to promote this vision for the use of artificial intelligence?
  • What should U.S. expectations be for leading U.S.-based firms and researchers when it comes to work in China on projects that violate human rights? 
  • Does the current export control regime adequately prevent the export of AI technology and technical assistance to human rights violators? 
  • Should Congress consider an update to the Alien Tort Claims Act, allowing foreign citizens (such as Uyghurs) to seek remedies in U.S. courts for human rights violations directly aided by the actions of U.S. firms or researchers?
  • What standards for AI are you promoting in international fora?
  • What is the current diplomatic engagement strategy by the Department of State to promote and promulgate those standards, including through participation in appropriate international fora and meetings?
  • How is the United States working with allies and partners on the development of AI tools?

 

Moving forward, I hope to see the United States further strengthen its efforts in the AI field to ensure that we do not cede leadership on this issue to China.  AI is rapidly becoming one of the most strategically important domains of the next generation, serving as an enabling technology to a range of future innovations and across disparate fields; it is vital to the security of the United States and our allies that we play a primary role in shaping AI to serve in the best interests of liberty, prosperity, and the promotion of human rights.  I ask that you please respond to my questions by May 20th.  I look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – A day ahead of the one-year anniversary of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) have introduced the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act, bipartisan legislation to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data.

The term “dark patterns” is used to describe online interfaces in websites and apps designed to intentionally manipulate users into taking actions they would otherwise not take under normal circumstances. These design tactics, drawn from extensive behavioral psychology research, are frequently used by social media platforms to mislead consumers into agreeing to settings and practices advantageous to the company.  

“For years, social media platforms have been relying on all sorts of tricks and tools to convince users to hand over their personal data without really understanding what they are consenting to. Some of the most nefarious strategies rely on ‘dark patterns’ – deceptive interfaces and default settings, drawing on tricks of behavioral psychology, designed to undermine user autonomy and push consumers into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do, like hand over all of their personal data to be exploited for commercial purposes,” said Sen. Warner, a former technology executive who is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Our goal is simple: to instill a little transparency in what remains a very opaque market and ensure that consumers are able to make more informed choices about how and when to share their personal information.” 

“Any privacy policy involving consent is weakened by the presence of dark patterns. These manipulative user interfaces intentionally limit understanding and undermine consumer choice. Misleading prompts to just click the ‘OK’ button can often transfer your contacts, messages, browsing activity, photos, or location information without you even realizing it. Our bipartisan legislation seeks to curb the use of these dishonest interfaces and increase trust online,” said Sen. Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee. 

Dark patterns can take various forms, often exploiting the power of defaults to push users into agreeing to terms stacked in favor of the service provider. Some examples of such actions include: a sudden interruption during the middle of a task repeating until the user agrees to consent; a deliberate obscuring of alternative choices or settings through design or other means; or the use of privacy settings that push users to ‘agree’ as the default option, while users looking for more privacy-friendly options often must click through a much longer process, detouring through multiple screens. Other times, users cannot find the alternative option, if it exists at all, and simply give up looking. 

The result is that large online platforms have an unfair advantage over users and potential competitors in forcing consumers to give up personal data such as their contacts, messages, web activity, or location to the benefit of the company. 

“The tech industry has gone unchecked for far too long. Bold action is needed on a wide scale to change the incentives in Silicon Valley with our well-being in mind, especially when it comes to kids,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense. “This bill gets to the root of the issue – the use of manipulative and deceptive design features that trick kids and other users into giving up valuable and private information, and hook them into spending more time than is healthy online. Common Sense strongly supports Senators Warner and Fischer on this bipartisan effort to hold tech companies accountable for these practices that only harm consumers.” 

“Dark patterns are among the least humane design techniques used by technology companies in their scramble for growth at all costs. They use these measures to offer false choices that confuse or trap users into over-sharing personal information or driving compulsive use – especially from the most vulnerable users, including kids,” said Tristan Harris, Co-Founder of the Center for Humane Technology. “A system-wide rethinking of technology policy and design is in order, so CHT fully supports Senators Warner and Fisher in this bipartisan effort to place significant constraints around the ability to deceive users online. The creation of a special standards body is especially crucial to the protection of consumers, as they keep lawmakers more up-to-date and able to iterate laws at pace with the rapid change of technology.”

“We support Senators Warner and Fischer in protecting people from exploitive and deceptive practices online,” said Fred Humphries, Corporate Vice President of U.S. Government Affairs at Microsoft. “Their legislation helps to achieve that goal and we look forward to working with them.”

“People are ensnared by ‘dark patterns’ of manipulation on the Internet every day, and ending these practices is a key part of protecting people online. We need to better understand the systems that manipulate people online, and empower users to fight back. We applaud Senator Warner and Senator Fischer for introducing this legislation to curtail these troubling practices,” said Alan Davidson, Vice President of Global Policy, Trust and Security at Mozilla.

“EPIC appreciates Senator Warner and Senator Fischer’s important work to safeguard consumer privacy,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC) Policy Director.  

The Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act aims to curb manipulative dark pattern behavior by prohibiting the largest online platforms (those with over 100 million monthly active users) from relying on user interfaces that intentionally impair user autonomy, decision-making, or choice. The legislation:

  • Enables the creation of a professional standards body, which can register with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to focus on best practices surrounding user design for large online operators. This association would act as a self-regulatory body, providing updated guidance to platforms on design practices that impair user autonomy, decision-making, or choice, positioning the FTC to act as a regulatory backstop.
  • Prohibits segmenting consumers for the purposes of behavioral experiments, unless with a consumer’s informed consent. This includes routine disclosures for large online operators, not less than once every 90 days, on any behavioral or psychological experiments to users and the public. Additionally, the bill would require large online operators to create an internal Independent Review Board to provide oversight on these practices to safeguard consumer welfare. 
  • Prohibits user design intended to create compulsive usage among children under the age of 13 years old.
  • Directs the FTC to create rules within one year of enactment to carry out the requirements related to informed consent, Independent Review Boards, and Professional Standards Bodies.

The full bill text is available here. 

Sen. Warner has been raising concerns about the implications of social media companies’ reliance on dark patterns for several years. In 2014, Sen. Warner asked the FTC to investigate Facebook’s use of dark patterns in an experiment involving nearly 700,000 users designed to study the emotional impact of manipulating information on their News Feeds. 

Sen. Warner is recognized as one of Congress’ leading voices in an ongoing public debate around social media and user privacy. Last year, Sen. Warner called on the social media companies to work with Congress and provide feedback on ideas he put forward in a white paper discussing potential policy solutions to challenges surrounding social media, privacy, and data security. In addition to the DETOUR Act, in the coming weeks and months, Sen. Warner will introduce further legislation designed to improve transparency, privacy, and accountability on social media.

 

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