Brad Smith Microsoft

Microsoft President and chief legal officer Brad Smith has continued his recent criticism of the US government. On Friday, Smith said tech companies will modify their social media moderation to comply with foreign government laws, whether US lawmakers push for similar changes or not.

Brad Smith says social media and tech companies can currently not be sued for what a user says on their platform. That legal stipulation is under Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act. Introduced in the late 1990s, but Smith says companies no longer need to be governed under the law. He says they have a “new level of responsibility”.

With several countries seeking to pass new laws around social media, Smith says tech companies will make changes whether the U.S. is on board or not.

“The laws around the world are going to change, and because technology is so global, American companies will adopt a new approach even if the United States Congress does nothing,” Smith said, during an interview with Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler.

In the same discussion, Smith said Microsoft has turned down government requests regarding facial recognition technology. He says the company “won’t sell” the tech for “purposes of mass surveillance anywhere in the world,”

Interestingly, Smith has previously said Microsoft would be ok with sharing facial recognition tech with government. “I do not understand an argument that companies should avoid all licensing to any government agency for any purpose whatsoever. A sweeping ban on all government use clearly goes too far and risks being cruel in its humanitarian effect.”

Busy Week

Microsoft President and chief lawyer Brad Smith has a new book available, “Tools and Weapons: The Promise and The Peril of The Digital Age.”

Among the most interesting snippets of Smith’s book include him deeming the government’s ban on Huawei as “un-American”. Smith says Huawei should be able to trade with U.S. companies and explanations around the regulations are too vague:

“Oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us, ‘And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.’”

Elsewhere, Brad Smith says pop megastar Taylor Swift considered suing Microsoft over its controversial Tay chatbot.