Left Menu
Development News Edition

UPDATE 3-Microsoft's Brad Smith: Tech companies won't wait for U.S. to act on social media laws

Reuters | San Francisco | Updated: 14-09-2019 00:43 IST | Created: 14-09-2019 00:42 IST
UPDATE 3-Microsoft's Brad Smith: Tech companies won't wait for U.S. to act on social media laws
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Microsoft Corp President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said on Friday that U.S. tech companies will change how they moderate online platforms in response to new laws from foreign governments, regardless of whether U.S. lawmakers take action. In an interview with Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler at a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York, Smith said that other countries such as New Zealand were passing laws in the wake of events like the mass murder in Christchurch earlier this year.

The murder of 51 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand was streamed on major online platforms including Facebook and Alphabet Inc's YouTube. The companies raced to take down the videos, but they were still available for more than a day. "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," he said. Smith spoke to Reuters as part of a tour to promote his recently released book, "Tools and Weapons."

Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act of 1996, protects tech companies from being sued for what users of their online platforms upload. But Smith said the law, critical to enabling the expansion of internet services and social media, should now be revisited. Technology companies, he said, should have a "new level of responsibility" for what is said on their sites.

Smith, who was promoted to Microsoft president in 2015, the first time the company had filled the role in more than a decade, has since become the company's public face on controversial intersections between technology and society. He also said tech companies have a responsibility to work together to help bridge the so-called digital divide, where rural Americans often lack broadband internet access, calling it "the technological underpinning for many of the major social, economic and political issues of the day."


The technology industry's responsibility to society was a theme in the discussion and in his new book. Smith said the industry should not enable governments to engage in cyber attacks.

He said Microsoft has turned down government requests for facial recognition software in cases where it fears misuse. "We won't sell facial recognition services for the purposes of mass surveillance anywhere in the world," he added.

Microsoft has called for stronger regulation of facial recognition technology, which has been used in China to track ethnic minorities. Smith stopped short for calling for an outright ban on the technology, saying that Microsoft believes it has valid uses and has argued that governments should move faster to regulate it.

"It's hard to innovate if you can't use something, and it's hard to learn if you can't innovate," Smith said. Still, critics have said the technology is not appropriate for use by law enforcement at all, warning it could undermine civil liberties and ensnare innocent people. Recent studies found that facial analysis tools from various companies struggled to identify the gender of individuals with darker skin, for instance, causing concern about unjust arrests.

"Microsoft sells systems that claim to detect fear and that can track the faces of up to a million people in real-time," Neema Singh Guliani, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in response to Smith's remarks. "For these words to be more than just a talking point, the company needs to commit to not selling these products to the government." Debates over the use of facial recognition have picked up steam in recent months. This week California's legislature approved a three-year ban on the technology for body cameras used by state and local police, following moves earlier this year by cities including San Francisco that prohibit all uses of facial recognition by municipal officials.

Also Read: Microsoft's Brad Smith: Tech companies won't wait for U.S. to act on social media laws



South Africa's COVID-19 response: Surprising outcomes or just poor data management?

South Africa has been committed to improving its health information system and shows that a robust digital has considerable scope to improve healthcare for the entire population. But the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that significant ga...

Post-COVID-19 Nigeria needs a robust Health Management Information System to handle high disease burden

Nigeria is among a few countries that conceptualised a health management information system HMIS in the early 90s but implementation has been a challenge till date. Besides COVID-19, the country has a huge burden of communicable and non-com...

Morocco COVID-19 response: A fragile health system and the deteriorating situation

Learning from its European neighbors, Morocco imposed drastic measures from the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak to try to contain its spread. The strategy worked for a few months but the cases have surged after mid-June. In this sit...

COVID-19: Argentina’s health system inefficiencies exaggerate flaws of health information system

You can recover from a drop in the GDP, but you cant recover from death, was the straightforward mindset of Argentinas President Alberto Fernndez and defined the countrys response to COVID-19. The South American nation imposed a strict...


Latest News

Mi Watch Revolve launched at inaugural price of Rs 9,999 in India

At the annual Smarter Living event, Xiaomi today launched the Mi Watch Revolve smartwatch in India. It comes with a Smart Always-On-Display, heart-rate and sleep monitoring function, GPS and long-lasting battery life.The Mi Watch Revolve wi...

Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 lands in India; first sale on Oct 1

After months of wait, Xiaomis most popular fitness band, the Mi Smart Band 5, has finally landed in India. The much-awaited fitness band features an AMOLED display, multiple workout modes, 247 heart rate and sleep monitoring functions and s...

Moscow extends school holiday over coronavirus

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Tuesday that the Russian capital would extend a planned school holiday in October to two weeks as part of a series of measures to stem the coronavirus.The move follows a recommendation from Sobyanin last...

European shares slip ahead of Trump-Biden debate

European stock markets opened lower on Tuesday as a rebound in the previous session fizzled out, with investors remaining cautious ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate.The pan-European STOXX 600 600 slipped 0.5 in early deals after r...

Give Feedback