During an interview on Kara Swisher's Recode Decode podcast, the country's most powerful Democrat said more needs to be done to curb the power of Big Tech, adding her voice to a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers who believe that Silicon Valley has run roughshod over norms around privacy, speech and elections.
“In the U.K., as you know, they’ve said the era of self-regulation of these companies is over,” she told Swisher, who asked if it's over in the U.S.
"It probably should be," Pelosi said. “I think we have to subject it all to scrutiny and cost-benefits and all that, but I do think that it’s a new era.”
Even so, Pelosi's tough talk is happening at a time when tech industry workers are donating heavily to Democratic lawmakers and organizations. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the vast majority of employee donations from workers at Amazon (89.3 percent), Google/Alphabet (96 percent), Facebook (94.5 percent) and Twitter (98.7 percent) went to Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections.
Pelosi even hinted during the interview that Silicon Valley could lose its protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives them broad immunity in terms of being responsible for what gets published on their platforms.
“230 is a gift to them, and I don’t think they are treating it with the respect that they should,” she said. “And so I think that that could be a question mark and in jeopardy. ... For the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it, and it is not out of the question that that could be removed.”
Section 230 was amended a year ago when FOSTA-SESTA, which aims to stop online sex trafficking, was signed into law by the Trump administration. Critics of FOSTA-SESTA claim that it actually cracks down on sex workers and will lead to a range of frivolous lawsuits against tech companies.
A number of Democrats running for president have called for stricter regulation of Big Tech, including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Texan Beto O'Rourke and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Although Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's proposal to break up tech giants like Amazon and Facebook has drawn more scrutiny, Pelosi said she had not studied it closely when questioned about it.
“I know there could be some clear lines that we see in our community, of companies that maybe could be easily broken up without having any impact, one on the other,” she said. “I’m a big believer in the antitrust laws, I think that’s very important for us to have them and to use them, and to subject those who should be subjected to it. I don’t know how all of these should be painted with the same brush, but I think that’s a look that should be taken.”