Nancy Pelosi issues warning to Big Tech: A ‘new era’ of regulation is on the horizon

April 12, 2019

Nancy Pelosi issues warning to Big Tech: A ‘new era’ of regulation is on the horizon Image Source: Screenshot

Nancy Pelosi has warned that a “new era” of regulation for Big Tech is on the way.

Pelosi told Kara Swisher of the Recode Decode podcast earlier this week that the days of Silicon Valley tech giants regulating themselves “should probably be over.” She went on to note that a 1996 law that grants companies immunity for what is shared on their platforms could be “in jeopardy” of being repealed or replaced.

Pelosi’s comments come amid widespread calls from Democrats and some Republicans to break up Silicon Valley, but the House speaker’s intentions are likely more insidious. While progressives already enjoy ideological dominance on platforms like Twitter, placing Big Tech under government control could further enable progressive censorship.

Self-regulation is “over”

Speaking with Swisher, Pelosi compared the future of Big Tech favorably with what is happening in Britain, where the state has amassed considerable control of the internet. Britain recently proposed sweeping new regulatory powers that critics say will threaten free speech.

“In the U.K., as you know, they’ve said the era of self-regulation of these companies is over,” Pelosi said.

“Is it over in this country?” Swisher asked.

“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.”

Pelosi said that Big Tech companies should no longer be able to take advantage of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which largely shields internet companies from accountability for what content appears on their platforms. Section 230 states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

The speaker said that Section 230 is a “gift to [Big Tech], and I don’t think they are treating it with the respect that they should.”

“And so I think that that could be a question mark and in jeopardy,” Pelosi added. “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.”

Power grab?

Pelosi’s comments come amid a widespread backlash against Big Tech from the left and right. The enormous influence that Big Tech companies have amassed over public debate has spawned calls to break up and regulate Big Tech, with Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposing the digital equivalent of Teddy Roosevelt’s “trust-busting.”

Pelosi did not sign on with Warren’s plan outright, but showed some interest in anti-trust regulation.

Big Tech has also faced mounting calls for regulation from conservatives who say that platforms like Twitter censor their viewpoints. Many say the current laissez-faire set-up enables progressives to censor conservatives by allowing Big Tech to do their dirty work for them.

While Pelosi’s comments would suggest she’s interested in policing content for the good of all, granting the government more power over tech companies won’t necessarily protect conservatives. Some conservatives have joined Democrats in calling to regulate Big Tech — Republican Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (MO) have also threatened to repeal Section 230, and conservative critics like Tucker Carlson regularly issue ominous warnings about the future of free speech — but it’s not difficult to envision more regulation of Big Tech backfiring.

Companies that censor conservatives already do so through an opaque process. Powerful companies can lobby the government for regulations that benefit their business or, in the case of Twitter and Facebook, grant them more oversight power to moderate and censor conservative content. It’s probably not by mistake that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg is asking for regulations. 

Indeed, the current alliance between Big Tech and the Democrats could become further entrenched once the door is opened for Washington to get involved. While Pelosi appeared to suggest the regulation would be in the public interest, it could well serve her partisan interest.


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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.