IBM is calling for lawmakers to crack down on internet platforms, arguing that companies like Google and Facebook face little regulation and enjoy broad legal immunity over what happens on their services.
Christopher Padilla, IBM’s vice president for government affairs, argued in a blog post on Thursday that internet companies need to be held in check by the government in the same way firms in other industries are.
“Over the last year, it has become increasingly clear that something is out of balance in that equation,” Padilla wrote. “Governments, advertisers, and even ordinary users are demanding that companies take responsibility for the societal effects their services can have on children, on civic dialogue, on elections, or in facilitating criminal or terrorist activity.
“People want to know how their data is being used, who owns it, where it is stored, and how the algorithms that give them information work,” he added.
The post highlights the divide between Silicon Valley titans and the traditional tech industry.
Padilla urged lawmakers to push through online sex trafficking legislation passed by the House this week that cuts into the internet platforms’ legal immunity over content posted by third parties. He also praised the Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill that would require greater transparency for online political ads.
Many internet companies, however, are concerned that the bills would open them up to litigation and greater regulatory scrutiny while threatening online speech and hurting startups by burdening them with greater liability.
But Padilla argued that immunity has allowed internet companies to act irresponsibly.
“Technology can be an enormous force for good,” he wrote. “But companies that innovate to make life better must also embrace their responsibility to usher in new technology in ways that are transparent and readily explainable. They must continually earn trust through accountability.”