The Wall Street Journal, Francis Haugen, Brian Knudsen discussed on WSJ Tech News Briefing


Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar has been one of the most outspoken lawmakers when it comes to addressing the power of big tech. She's a co author sponsor and supporter of a number of bills that would limit what large tech firms could do, how big they could get and increase their liability for what happens on their platforms. During The Wall Street Journal's tech live event she spoke with the co host of the journal podcast, Brian knudsen. Here are highlights from that conversation starting with Ryan. I wanted to start with your reaction to The Wall Street Journal's recent investigative series. And Francis haugen, the Facebook whistleblowers, recent testimony, which you of course attended. What was your reaction when The Wall Street Journal started publishing those stories in September? My reaction was finally and not in terms of The Wall Street Journal. But finally, this issue of dominance and the need to protect not only kids, but consumers was put in a light that seems real to people. And it was the work of a fine reporting and revealing of the documents and the testimony the whistleblower who knew what she was talking about. Even though there were attempts to undermine her by the company, I think she really gained the trust of the lawmakers and she gained the trust of the public. And it just opened up a whole new world for people seeing this. And the final thing I'll say about it is parents. I just did a Zoom call with a bunch of parents and I think for them it was cathartic because they feel so alone. They're trying to get their kids off the platforms. Now they find out with some of the recent reporting that Instagram was trying to keep these kids on three to four hours a day. And bemoan the fact when it goes to less than three to four hours a day. One of the things that Francis Hogan talked about in her testimony to The Wall Street Journal reported was that for one in three teen girls that Instagram makes body image issues worse. What kind of a regulation can even tackle a problem like that? Number one, privacy law, I think helps just generally. It changes the rules of the game, parents can opt out of having their data used. It just changes the way the whole thing's organized. Just strong law. Secondly, the kids will see online privacy act, improving that to include 13 to 15 year olds and to put in some more rules or the roads of what kids can be exposed to and what advertisements they can receive. Competition policy. So allowing competition in the marketplace, new entrants to get in. And then finally, the algorithms that are really promoting what I think can be very, very difficult content for parents would be another thing to look at. Let's talk about the algorithm. As you know, obviously, section two 30 protects tech companies from the content that their algorithms promote, it protects them from all content that gets posted on their platforms. How do you think section two 30 needs to change? Well, I've suggested some focus changes to it. But it is possible, we'll have to go even bigger unless we find other ways to fix this. As you know, what that means is they can't be sued. And the way I describe this to people is, if you fire in a crowded theater, that's not protected speech. If there's a stampede, the theater probably won't be sued unless there's problems with their entries and getting out of there. If the theater decides to use speakers and have it broadcast what the person is saying or whatever misinformation they're putting out there to all of their theaters deliberately and then problems develop or there's a stampede because someone's yelling fire in its broadcast in a 12 month plex, they'd be sued right now these social media companies aren't putting that content on themselves, but they are broadcasting that content and here's the key making money off of it because that's how they get more money from polarized speech targeted things. So the argument would be, you could do it by type of speech I suggested at least for vaccine misinformation, senator array Ben ray luhan and I have a bill to do this. That you shouldn't have immunity if that's getting amplified. We're not talking here about people's comments. We're talking about the money they make amplifying it or if they are amplifying it. Senator Warner and hirono and I have a bill that gets to discriminatory speech and those kinds of things. But I think there's more and more interest I've heard in the hallways. I will say from senators on both sides of the aisle on a more blanket getting rid of the section two 30 immunity. So as you imagine changes the section two 30, do you see it tailored to just a social media companies? Or do you see changes coming to section two 30 that would cover all tech companies writ large? Yeah, I'm not going to opine on that right now because my changes have been very narrow, the ones I've suggested. But the more the time goes on, I'm not the only one that starts wondering if we should not just have the narrow changes. I'm not talking about what platforms necessary to apply to, but at least what the breadth of the lifting of the immunity is. I want to turn to antitrust into competition. We've been talking a lot about Facebook so I want to stay with Facebook for just a moment. You've said in the past that breaking up Facebook needs to be on the table. The Facebook whistleblower Francis haugen has said that she doesn't think that breaking up Facebook is a good idea. Where do you stand on that now? I think when you just hear a breakup a company, I think that, you know, that can sound like you're trying to demolish a company far from it and she makes a good case of why you want some established companies in the marketplace. You know, I agree with that. What I'm talking about here is over time, when you look at like, say, AT&T, you can call it a breakup or not. But when you divest assets. And by the way, it happens all the time in competition policy, merging companies come before the government and of course this is too late now in the Instagram case. Doesn't mean it can be looked at again when we look back. And the emerging companies say, okay, we know there's not any competition here in this area if we merge. And then they agreed to divest a certain part of their company if they're going to march. Not make the company go away, not blow the company up, but simply divest them of assets. And I think that's a legal decision to be made. Oh, a lot of tech companies right now are talking about how tech regulations ought to be regulated. As I'm sure you've seen Facebook has been running ads all over the place saying that it's time to update the nation's tech laws. What areas do you think Facebook and you agree? Okay, well, they support my on a sad act. I know that they didn't at first, but then they did for disclaimers and disclosures on political ads. They one of the things they've said is, well, yeah, we can look at changing some immunity or doing some things if as long as we meet certain standards and certain do certain things. And that really was a red light to me, you know, that's that way of looking at it. Oh, we just crossed some boxes and got some eyes and crossed some teas and then we're okay. I think we've got to have more accountability than that. But they clearly are opening the conversation, but we've had a lot of conversations and solans on these topics. You.

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