Marietje Schaake calls bulls— on Silicon Valley’s self-regulation mantra

It seems like there’s bipartisan compromise for once in Washington, D.C., and it’s over one commitment: It’s time to reel in Big Tech. But Marietje Schaake has been sounding that alarm for years. Once one of the youngest members of the European Parliament, Schaake now helps lead the academic discussion around how to regulate some of the biggest companies in the world, like Facebook and Apple, as a policy fellow at Stanford University. She tells POLITICO’s Ryan Heath how she aims to reform Silicon Valley from within, and what it’s like when some of her students take jobs at tech giants.

On her advice for Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission

“Enforcement is going to be a big challenge. The U.S. is now politically so divided that it’s going to be really hard to realize any bold moves on virtually any topic. So, I can only wish her luck and hope that she will think about sanctions that will actually impact the bottom line for these companies. And that will not just be absorbed as the cost of doing business because billion euro or billion dollar fines were very rare for a long time. Now we’ve seen a couple of them handed down to Big Tech companies. But even if these are staggering numbers, it is not really hurting these businesses.” — Marietje Schaake, international policy director at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center.

On what revelations from whistleblowers like Frances Haugen, formerly of Facebook, reveal but also conceal

“I think that these big scandals are crucial for understanding but they also tend to overshadow that there’s really a systemic problem that we have to address — and that is that digitization pretty much always means privatization and that anything from national security to rights protections to the building and protecting of critical infrastructure to our information society are all governed by commercial companies because everything has become digitized.”

On Silicon Valley’s claim that regulation stifles innovation

“That’s probably the most successful lobbying slogan that has ever been rolled out by Silicon Valley companies. And I’ve seen especially Europeans who felt like their tech sector was not evolving as quickly as those in the United States and increasingly Asia, really worrying that any intervention might lead to decreased innovative capacity and success for Europe. It has led to such a loss of time … we are really playing catch up. We are essentially regulating yesterday’s problems today while tomorrow’s challenges and lack of accountability are already at our doorstep.”


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