The 116th Congress began in 2019 with what would become the longest government shutdown in history, and it would end just three days shy of an unprecedented violent attack on the Capitol building during the first week of the 117th Congress. Throughout the last two Congresses, the United States government has grappled with several crises, many of which were exacerbated or complicated by information technologies. Congress responded to the challenges with a swath of technology oversight hearings, new legislation to regulate “Big Tech” and its negative impact on the public, and proposals for new technology offices and enhancements at Executive Branch agencies. Yet serious problems with disinformation and other public harms created by new technologies persist.
The overview of this report highlights some of the crises and corresponding technology issues that Congress and the U.S. Government dealt with, and how it and other countries responded. Part I of this report specifically focuses on how Congress has responded to disinformation and the digital information crisis. Part II of this report notes that most Executive Branch agencies were created following a crisis or to better reflect the balance of power in the United States, and includes a recommendation for the creation of a Department of Technology and Innovation to better address the myriad of regulatory and public challenges presented by technology.