POLITICS

Nancy Pelosi Says Tech's 'Era Of Self-Regulation' Should 'Probably' Be Over

The House speaker said tech companies should have a “bigger sense of responsibility” about what is posted on their platforms.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appears to be open to further regulation of big tech companies.

Speaking on journalist Kara Swisher’s “Recode Decode” podcast in an episode released Friday, Pelosi pointed to the U.K., where “they’ve said the era of self-regulation of these companies is over.” 

Asked if she thought it was over in the U.S. too, the congresswoman for San Francisco ― the home of major tech companies like Twitter and Uber and to workers for Facebook, Google and others headquartered in nearby Silicon Valley ― said “it probably should be.”

“I think we have to subject it all to scrutiny and cost-benefits and all that, but I do think that it’s a new era,” she said on the podcast.

Major tech companies have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Amazon has been criticized for tax benefits some see as unfair and for having its low-wage warehouse employees work long hours for little pay, all while fighting their efforts to unionize.

Uber has faced several drivers’ strikes, most recently in Los Angeles, for cutting drivers’ pay per mile ― all while drivers are categorized as contractors rather than employees, preventing them from unionizing or receiving benefits like health care or 401(k) retirement funds.

Facebook and Twitter have also notably come under fire for not doing enough to manage the spread of hate and misinformation on their platforms, and Facebook has experienced a seemingly endless series of privacy snafus.

Swisher asked Pelosi about Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to break up big tech companies like Google and Facebook because she says they have too much power and stifle competition. The House speaker said she hadn’t studied the Massachusetts senator’s proposal, but cautiously expressed that such moves should be looked into.

“I know there could be some clear lines that we see right in our own community of companies that maybe could be easily broken up without having any impact, one on the other,” she said.

“I don’t know how all of these should be painted with the same brush, but I think that’s a look that should be taken,” she added. 

Nancy Pelosi speaks at a March 6 news conference on Democrats' bill to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules eliminated by t
Nancy Pelosi speaks at a March 6 news conference on Democrats' bill to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules eliminated by the GOP-controlled Federal Communications Commission.

Pelosi also spoke of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ― a provision that gives online intermediaries like Google, YouTube and Reddit immunity from liability for any third-party content posted to or hosted on their platforms.

“[Section] 230 is a gift to them ... and I don’t think they are treating it with the respect that they should,” Pelosi said of tech companies. “And so I think that that could be a question mark and in jeopardy.”

“They just love 230,” she added. “For the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it, and it is not out of the question that that could be removed.”

Speaking of Democrats’ relationship with tech giants, Pelosi noted the companies are often “out there” in a positive sense on issues of immigration, gun safety, women’s and LGBTQ rights, and that they “take pride” in their involvement.

“You’re maybe not gonna like what I have to say ― they won’t,” Pelosi added. “I think all of that interest, and I believe it is sincere on their part, is trumped ― pun intended ― by their interest in a tax cut.”

When President Donald Trump announced his tax overhaul in 2017, tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft reportedly lobbied in support of the tax bill, which would allow them to bring overseas cash back to the U.S. at reduced tax rates. Pelosi called the tax changes a “scam” and “disgrace” that gave “1% of the people 83% of the benefit of it.”

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