Satya Nadella Says Big Tech Needs Strong Free Speech Rules
Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, said social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube need better laws and guidelines to control whether controversial accounts, such as those of former US President Donald Trump, have a position in their services rather than being required to make free-speech decisions on their own.
“In a wide-ranging interview with Emily Chang of Bloomberg Television, Nadella said, “Unilateral action by individual companies in democracies like ours is not just long-term stable; we need to be able to have a system of laws and norms.
“It’s just no way that at least I, as a citizen, would advocate for, depending on any individual CEO in any of these companies to make calls that will really help us maintain something as sacred and as important as our democracy in the long run.”
Parler, a social network that promotes itself as anti-censorship and was popular among conservative and extremist figures, removed its hosting services from Amazon’s cloud unit. Parler was previously removed from its app stores by Apple and Google’s Alphabet. The acts of the three tech firms effectively took the service offline.
Antitrust authorities have stepped up inquiries into the market dominance of major technology firms over the past few years, much as Microsoft came under regulatory scrutiny more than two decades ago when Nadella was a rising boss and faced a US antitrust lawsuit.
Instead of waiting until their size leads to issues for customers and competitors, the CEO said it is safer for smaller technology companies to face vigorous competition and manage the negative effects of becoming too large ahead of time.
“Big is not bad on its own, but it’s good competition,” he said. And most importantly, you need a business model that’s really consistent with doing well in the world. There are some categories of goods where challenges are generated by the unintended effect of development on that category or lack of competition.
“For US tech companies, there is no God-given right to take for granted that there can not be other tech powers,” he said. “All of us need to be more grounded on the West Coast of the United States because sometimes I think we celebrate our own advances far too much.” Instead, he said, businesses should look at what’s going on in the world and how important their technology is.
Since Nadella took over as CEO seven years ago, after languishing for more than a decade under his predecessors, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft shares have soared more than 500 percent. Although more recently, Microsoft has largely eluded the regulatory scrutiny of other tech giants, it has drawn some concerns from smaller competitors.
Slack, which is being absorbed by Salesforce, urged European Union antitrust authorities to investigate Microsoft by merging it with Office 365 cloud-based collaboration programs for unfairly foisting its Teams interactive applications on millions of users in July. These claims were rejected by Nadella. I still ask the question, if it was not for the free access they had on top of, say, the Windows platform, would Slack have still existed? “Said he. “They didn’t have Microsoft to call. They didn’t have any of our app stores to go through.
Compared to any of the other sites they’re available on, they didn’t need any of our permission. In Windows and also in Office 365, we could be offering the most transparent forum.