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Rep. Ro Khanna says balancing regulation and ethics online is key to ensuring technology remains a force for good: ‘We need technology to democratize voice in America’

Ro KhannaRep. Ro Khanna of California.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

  • Rep. Ro Khanna of California has long proposed regulations on Big Tech to preserve user rights.
  • As controversies continue at Twitter, he argues for a balance of internal ethics and legal regulation.
  • “I think the trajectory of technology is still a force for good,” he told Politico.

A self-described “technology optimist,” Rep. Ro Khanna of California is again advocating for balancing Big Tech ethics with consumer-protecting regulation as controversies continue following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

The Silicon Valley representative has long supported moderate regulation of online platforms, centering consumer data privacy and antitrust protections. In 2018, he proposed the Internet Bill of Rights, a list of principles designed to inform future legislation on tech issues, though he noted to Politico “there hasn’t been a lot of action” toward creating new laws since his proposal and no new antitrust legislation has been passed.

As Twitter has become central to the conversation around Big Tech in recent months — with potential international sanctions looming for Musk’s banning of journalists from the platform and some legislators calling for investigations into government requests to remove content prior to the change in leadership — Khanna recently made headlines as a rare Democratic voice criticizing the platform’s handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020.

“I say this as a total Biden partisan and convinced he didn’t do anything wrong,” Matt Taibbi reported Rep. Ro Khanna wrote in an email to the head of Twitter’s legal department, Vijaya Gadde, at the time. “But the story now has become more about censorship than relatively innocuous emails and it’s become a bigger deal than it would have been. It is also now leading to serious efforts to curtail section 230 — many of which would have been a mistake.”

Despite his concerns about Twitter, Khanna remains optimistic about the potential for technology companies to benefit society.

I think most people are glad that they have the ability to search for information online in a way that’s probably greater than President Reagan had,” Khanna told Politico, maintaining his confident stance on the positive potential of technology that he has been known for since he was first elected in 2016. “They’re glad for the massive advancements in medical science that technology in Silicon Valley has afforded. They’re glad for the extraordinary achievements and climate, from batteries to electric vehicles to solar panels. I think the trajectory of technology is still a force for good.”

Khanna added that such technology has to be regulated “in the service of higher purpose,” with a realistic framework in mind to allow tech companies to create solutions to social problems.

“I think we need technology to solve climate,” Khanna told Politico. “We need technology to bring manufacturing back. We need technology to democratize voice in America. I don’t mind that we don’t have a Walter Cronkite telling us what the truth is; I think it’s a good thing that we have a proliferation of voices in this country.”

The current dominance of online platforms like Twitter over our political and economic lives, Khanna told Politico, leads him to believe more people need access to technology to address issues of data privacy and inequity and more technology companies are needed to prevent a digital monopoly.

“If technology companies are the architects of so much of modern life, then we need more people participating in it, more companies having an opportunity to shape that,” Khanna told Politico. “Otherwise, you have too few companies, too few individuals with power over American culture.”

The office of Rep. Khanna did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider