Republican big tech proposals target counterfeit goods

Proposals by Republican lawmakers in the US to overhaul the regulation of technology companies includes provisions focusing on counterfeit goods, in amongst more high-profile targets like moderation and liability of content.

The Big Tech Accountability Platform memo circulated by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee would require companies to put in place "reasonable moderation practices" to curb the use of their platforms for illegal activities including counterfeit products as well as other criminal activities like illicit drugs, child pornography and terrorism.

Failure to reasonably moderate content would be subject to enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under the proposals, which would also require closer cooperation with law enforcement in targeting perpetrators responsible for such activities.

The approach to counterfeits has been welcomed by the Buy Safe America Coalition, set up to support efforts to protect consumers and communities from the sale of fake and stolen goods.

In a letter to Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican leader on the energy and commerce committee, Coalition spokesperson Michael Hanson writes that the move is timely as "criminal networks are taking advantage of the rapid escalation of online shopping amid the COVID-19 pandemic to peddle counterfeit, stolen, defective, harmful, and dangerous products to unsuspecting consumers."

Anti-Counterfeit Packaging Market by Technology, End-Use Industry and Region - Global Forecast to 2025

Hanson cites a January 2020 report by the Department of Homeland Security which found that the annual cost of counterfeit and pirated goods being sold in the US is over $500bn, and also points to DHS evidence that activities like illegal drug sales, child exploitation, and terrorism are connected to criminal networks selling counterfeit and stolen goods.

"Lack of verification and transparency on online marketplaces have made these sites attractive to criminal networks that are endangering consumers, hurting legitimate businesses, and devaluing American brands," according to the letter.

Buy Safe America urges Republicans to work with Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, who recently re-introduced the INFORM Consumers act, which would make it mandatory for any online retail platform that allows third-party sellers to authenticate the identity of those who have made 200 or more discrete sales in a 12-month period amounting to $5,000 or more.

"By shining a light on the lack of verification and transparency of third-party sellers on these platforms, you can help deter fraudsters from using them to prop up nefarious activities," says Hanson.

Image by Pixelkult from Pixabay

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