U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar says the time is now for increased regulation and a rewriting of America’s relationship with its biggest technology companies.
“Our current social contract with big tech needs to be renegotiated,” Klobuchar said during a South by Southwest session on Friday. “In the U.S., that means setting new expectations and putting new rules of the road in place on privacy and transparency, on political lands, on interoperability and on antitrust. That means updating our laws, and not just talking about it, but doing it.”
The Minnesota Democrat was joined in the SXSW panel by Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Competition, Tristan Harris, president and co-founder of the Center For Humane Technology, and Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen, tech ambassador for Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Klobuchar said she does not want to destroy big technology companies, but wants to improve privacy, antitrust and information laws. She said the U.S. needs to work with the rest of the world on these issues.
“The goal is to make this work,” she said. “The U.S. can’t do that alone. We are proud of our companies and the people that work for them, but we know there’s major problems.”
Klobuchar is among the lawmakers pushing for more oversight of technology companies, including proposing a antitrust bill that would force companies to prove merging with a competitor wouldn’t reduce competition or hurt consumers.
Klobuchar, who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, has called for a number of related measures in recent months, including for lawmakers to revisit Facebook’s purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp.
“We know how incredibly important these companies are how important they’ve been during the pandemic, and certainly know it well in Austin, where we’ve seen credible exciting growth in the tech industry,” Klobuchar said Friday.
She added, technology companies have helped create opportunities and have played roles in improving education, health care services amid the pandemic and getting news in real time, among other things.
“These technologies have transformed our lives, but there’s a downside. Government is not any kind of a counterweight to making sure that this technology is used for good and not bad, she said. “It also must be a counterweight, when it comes to the monopoly, and what you’ve seen in the tech area is something that is literally unheard of in our country.”
Harris, president and co-founder of the Center For Humane Technology, said big tech is largely an unregulated marketplace where the companies are able to make more money if they allow unchecked messages to spread.
“I think many people are now waking up to the reality that we need a new agenda for technology, and that surveillance capitalism has a business model that does not protect democracy or the people’s interests,” Harris said.
Klobuchar also called for working together on a global level to solve issues with big tech.
“The systems of lawmaking are different, as our legal traditions in the U.S. and Europe, but I do expect that both the European and American approaches will reflect our society’s shared values including respect for individual rights, transparency, and fundamental fairness,” she said.
Vestager said consumer choice and privacy needs to be the default option. If consumers have a hard time figuring out what their real choices even are when it comes to big technology, the social contract is void, she said.
“This is a wake-up call, with no snooze, that there’s no way that we can wait,” Vestager said.
Vestager said it’s important that governments are ensuring that innovation and competition can continue. To do this, she said, there needs to be a system where there’s much more room for smaller companies to scale up, and that the big companies need to be more aware of the role they play in the market.
“I think we have a special responsibility to take the torch and to begin a global discussion that may oblige us all more to take action,” Vestager said.
Source: USA Today – Breaking News