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(Bloomberg) — Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft Corp., said that social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube need clearer laws and rules to decide if controversial accounts like that of former U.S. President Donald Trump have a place on their sites instead of being asked to make free-speech decisions on their own.
In a wide-ranging interview with Emily Chang of Bloomberg Television, Nadella said, “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.” “As a citizen, I would never support the idea that we should rely on any one CEO of any of these companies to make decisions that will help us keep something as sacred and important as our democracy in the long run.”
Microsoft doesn’t have a social media service for consumers right now, but it is one of the cloud computing companies that has been brought into the debate about removing certain voices, social media accounts, and even whole apps. This is especially true after the violent pro-Trump protest at the U.S. Capitol last month.
The cloud division of Amazon.com Inc. stopped hosting Parler LLC, a social network that said it was anti-censorship and was popular with conservatives and extremists. In the past, Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google removed Parler from their respective app stores. The actions of the three tech companies basically shut down the service. In the meantime, Trump’s account was banned from Twitter Inc. and is still on hold on Facebook Inc.
Antitrust regulators have been looking into the market power of big tech companies more in the past few years. This is similar to how Microsoft was looked at by the government and sued by the U.S. government for antitrust violations when Nadella was a rising manager more than 20 years ago. The CEO said that it’s better for younger tech companies to face tough competition and deal with the bad things that come with getting too big now than to wait until their size causes problems for customers and competitors.
“Big isn’t bad in and of itself, but competition is,” he said. “More importantly, you need a business model that really fits with how the world is doing a business model that really fits with how the world is doing.” There are some types of products whose growth or lack of competition causes problems because of things that weren’t planned.
Nadella said that there needs to be competition, and that includes competition from China. However, each government must consider national security, according to Nadella.
He said, “There is no divine right for U.S. tech companies to assume that there can’t be other tech powers.” “All of us on the West Coast of the United States need to be more grounded.” “Sometimes I think we celebrate our own progress way too much.” He said that instead, businesses should look at what’s going on in the world and how useful their technology is.
Microsoft’s shares have gone up by more than 500% since Satya Nadella became CEO seven years ago. Before that, they had been going down for more than a decade while Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were in charge. Even though regulators haven’t paid as much attention to Microsoft as they have to other tech giants in recent years, smaller competitors have complained about it. In July, Slack Technologies Inc., which is being bought by Salesforce.com Inc., asked European Union antitrust regulators to look into whether Microsoft was unfairly forcing its Teams collaborative software on millions of users by putting it together with Office 365 cloud-based productivity programs. Nadella shot those claims down.
He said, “I always wonder if Slack would even exist if they didn’t have free access on top of, say, the Windows platform.” “There was no need for them to call Microsoft.” They didn’t have to use any of our app stores. Unlike on other platforms where they are available, they didn’t need our permission. “We may have the most open platform for Windows and even Office 365.”
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