Whether it's the governance of free speech or policing hate speech, social media platforms are under the spotlight. Do they have a responsibility to uphold the values of free speech and do they need to do more to control what is said on their platforms? Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella believes companies like Twitter and Facebook need government intervention.
However, in an interview with Bloomberg, Nadella is not calling for governments to clamp down on these companies. Instead, he believes governments are failing platforms by not create unilateral standards of operation.
“Unilateral action by individual companies in democracies like ours is just not long-term stable—we do need to be able to have a framework of laws and norms. Depending on any one individual CEO in any one of these companies to make calls that are going to really help us maintain something as sacred and as important as our democracy, in the long run, is just no way that at least I, as a citizen, would advocate for.”
Satya Nadella is essentially saying social media companies cannot be in charge of creating a single code of conduct. Whether that's because they cannot be trusted or because it is unworkable, the Microsoft CEO believes government regulations are needed.
Nadella is speaking largely as an observer as Microsoft has never been directly in the social media business. However, the company does provide cloud services that underpin aspects of social media platforms. Microsoft could be forced to eventually make decisions for companies that use its cloud infrastructure.
We have seen that in action this year when Amazon Web Services and Google both removed conservative social network Parler from its cloud network.
During the interview, Satya Nadella also talks about competition in tech and how it helps to create even playing fields.
“Big by itself is not bad, but competition is good. And more importantly, you need to have a business model that really is aligned with the world doing well. There are certain categories of products where the unintended consequences of the growth on that category or lack of competition creates issues.”
He added that competition as allowed competitors to thrive while using Microsoft services:
“I always ask the question, would Slack have even existed if it was not for the free access they had on top of, say, the Windows platform?
They didn't have to call Microsoft. They didn't have to go through any of our app stores. They didn't need any of our permission compared to any of the other platforms that they're available on. We perhaps provide the most open platform in Windows and even in Office 365.”
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