It’s not every day you hear leading technology companies — or any industry’s top players — asking to be regulated. And yet that’s precisely Microsoft President Brad Smith did when he recently said that government should put up guardrails around engineers in order to regulate big tech.
What happens if that doesn’t happen? Democracy might suffer, Smith says.
“We need to work with governments to protect, frankly, something that is far more important than technology: democracy. It was here before us. It needs to be here and healthy after us.”
He didn’t always think this way
While Smith has co-authored a book with Carol Ann Browne called Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age — all about how technology can be used as a literal tool or weapon — his was not always an opinion calling for the watchful eye of the government.
According to NPR, Smith repeatedly made comments in the theme of “regulation kills innovation” during the 1990s. But he recently denounced such a view, saying “there were many things that we got wrong.”
“Smith has proposals that are not popular in Silicon Valley. For one, he argues, it’s time to reform the U.S. law that says Internet platforms are not liable for just about any of the content running through their pipes — hate speech, death threats and ads for counterfeit goods or illegal guns,” says the NPR report.
“That law has enabled Microsoft’s competitors — Amazon, Facebook and Google and its subsidiary YouTube — to grow at breakneck speed. “Almost no technology has gone so entirely unregulated, for so long, as digital technology,” Smith says.