Top Microsoft Execs Call For More Regulation

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

Top Microsoft executives are calling for democratic governments around the globe to team up to regulate cyberspace.

Microsoft President Brad Smith and executive director of communications Carol Ann Brown released a list of the “Top 10 Tech Issues For 2018.”

“As the calendar flips to 2018, we are looking back at the top tech issues of the last year, offering our perspectives for the coming 12 months, recapping what we’ve learned, and sharing how Microsoft is helping to address these issues,” the executives wrote.

The first issue they cite is cybersecurity, a topic that was at the forefront of political discourse following the hacks at Equifax and the reported Russian hacking of U.S. election terminals in 2016.

“On Nov. 1, social media companies testified before two congressional committees about the impact of Russian-sponsored advertising on the 2016 elections. The hearings were the result of months of deepening scrutiny and growing self- awareness about the breadth of these efforts. We haven’t seen this much controversy about foreign intervention in American politics since the Red Scares of the 20th century and, perhaps even more pertinent, when John Adams, the second president of the United States, was dealing with Napoleon Bonaparte and the impact of an Anglo-French war on the United States,” the pair wrote.

“In 2018 the world must build on this collaboration. A first key step will need to come from the tech sector itself. The first half of the year should provide the opportunity for global technology leaders to come together and adopt a cyber-security tech sector accord,” the executives wrote. “New governmental steps in 2018 will be vital as well. We need governments to recognize where international law applies to cyberattacks and fill in the gaps where it does not.”

The executives also wrote about the need to come up with a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“In America today, immigration and the tech sector are deeply connected, a reality that underpins the recent political debates on this issue. Perhaps in more than any other part of the economy, immigration has played a vital role not just in the success of individual tech companies, but in the global leadership position of the entire American tech sector,” the executives wrote.

“Either Congress will have acted on DACA, the president will have postponed his six-month deadline, the courts will have intervened, or 800,000 people will wake up that day dreading deportation. Many of these individuals have no memory of living in a country other than the United States. A significant number work at tech companies, including 45 at Microsoft. There’s hope that a congressional compromise may emerge in January as part of an omnibus budget bill. If not, March 5 could well become one of the loudest days of the year. If that happens, it seems a safe bet that tech companies will make their voices heard.”

Net-neutrality also got a shout out.

“The year we just completed marked an apparent end to the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules in the United States. But it was hardly the end of the debate about the regulation of underlying telecommunications services and access to so-called OTT or “Over the Top” services like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify or next-generation consumer and business services delivered from Microsoft and other companies operating datacenters,” Smith and Brown wrote.

“No debate that has lasted this long will end with a single vote. Already the work for 2018 has begun with a new round of legal challenges, state legislation, and deliberations in Congress. The ISPs themselves are pledging that they will avoid the discrimination that consumer groups and tech companies fear. It’s a wise course. An issue that began when Bill Clinton was president will undoubtedly last beyond this administration and its FCC – and perhaps the two or three after them as well. One of the arguments of net neutrality opponents is that regulation isn’t needed. If the ISPs act otherwise and prove that it is, the result could well be the lasting and bipartisan net neutrality rules that so far have proved elusive.”

Microsoft, along with a host of other tech companies, like Facebook, has seen its stock price soar since the 2016 election. The company’s stock price is up well over $20 a share since January 2017 and looks to continue making steady gains.

The S&P 500 tech sector was on a tear in 2017, posting significant earnings gains since the third quarter of 2016.

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