A troublesome realization has dawned on the big technology companies: In the near future, Congress will impose regulation on them. This prospect has spurred companies to preemptively draft privacy legislation, to jump in front of whatever more draconian measures politicians might devise.
Big Tech is shrewd to move first. Congress has been quick to vent anger against Facebook and its ilk, but it hasn’t yet developed policy that might channel its rage. Senator Mark Warner is an exception to this slow-footedness. This summer, he circulated a white paper that laid out a comprehensive critique of these companies, and it named names: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Twitter.
His paper argues, “The speed with which these products have grown and come to dominate nearly every aspect of our social, political and economic lives has in many ways obscured the shortcomings of their creators in anticipating the harmful effects of their use.” Warner followed a fairly sweeping diagnosis with a lengthy compendium of potential solutions to curb the proliferation of misinformation and propaganda, to protect the privacy of users, and to preserve a competitive marketplace. He explored the possibilities of imposing European-style privacy regulations and allowing those defamed on social media to bring cases against tech companies under state tort laws.
[Read: Mark Zuckerberg’s case against regulating Facebook.]
I met with Warner in his Senate office to discuss his thinking. Warner comes from tech. In the ’90s, he earned a fortune as an investor in hugely successful telecommunications companies. He dresses the part. When I entered his inner sanctum, he was wearing blue jeans and Allbirds, the famously favored footwear of the Google co-founder Larry Page and the former Twitter chief Dick Costolo. And, of course, he wore an Apple Watch on his wrist. Unlike other senatorial dens that are crammed with home-state kitsch and stodgy neoclassical touches, Warner’s maintains an ostentatiously minimalistic look: A giant abstract canvas hovers above his tidy desk.
Before we chatted, Warner issued a self-deprecatory warning: “I have a tendency to zig and zag in conversation.” He said his style of thinking aloud didn’t always translate well to paper. Our exchange, below, has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Franklin Foer: In the public’s mind, you’re a pro-tech centrist. Yet you’ve come up with a fairly sweeping critique of Big Tech. Was there a trigger …read more
Source:: The Atlantic – Politics