Twitter top lawyer says new regulations would only hurt startups

By Mark Sullivan

Twitter’s chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde believes new government regulation of tech companies will only stifle innovation and create barriers for new companies. Her comments come as lawmakers increasingly see a need to check the power of big tech companies like Twitter, new regulations being one way of doing so (breaking them up being another).

Here’s Gadde speaking on a panel at the Wall Street Journal‘s Tech Live event Monday:

One of the things that worries us most is entrenching incumbents. That is what regulation is going to do–it’s going to stop innovation and it’s going to entrench incumbents. We have to think really, really carefully here to stop that from happening. Because the internet, the openness, the freedom–if new participants can’t come in and engage and participate openly, that’s going to be a very big concern.

Ironically, Gadde’s comments suggest that Twitter is looking out for the best interests of the startup that might eventually disrupt it in the social networking business. That’s an easier threat to deal with than the more immediate headache of complying with new federal laws.

A better answer is for tech companies to understand themselves better, and treat their users better.

“We are not just a neutral platform,” Gadde said. “The way our algorithm works is that it amplifies certain kinds of content and it inherently encourages and incentivizes certain content. We’ve had to really think about what the product ultimately is, and what the consequences of that are.”

Gadde said her company realized it needed to “give power back” to Twitter users. For instance, she said Twitter users now have the ability to turn the algorithm off so that they see the tweets without Twitter’s curation.

Gadde’s statement sounds very different than those of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who has invited regulation from the government. Zuckerberg has said repeatedly that he doesn’t believe that a tech company ought to be making decisions about what kinds of speech are permissible and which aren’t.

Lawmakers in the capital have been talking about passing a national privacy law for years now, but have failed to pass one. California’s privacy law, which passed in June 2018 and goes into effect in January 2020, may become the default privacy standard in the U.S.

 

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