Diplomat Says Tech Giants Have More Power Than Most Countries

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Some of America’s most powerful tech companies have more global power than nation states do, according to Denmark’s tech ambassador.

Casper Klynge is tasked with what Denmark’s foreign ministry has called “techplomacy,” according to Reuters. He will be responsible for discussing tech issues and how they relate to the country’s policies with several firms located in Silicon Valley, the colloquial term for the region and people within the tech hub in the general San Francisco and San Jose area.

“We are to continue doing traditional diplomacy with countries and organizations, but we also have to start looking into what relation you can have with these big tech companies,” Klynge, who will take over the new post Sept. 1, told Reuters in an interview published Monday. “If you look at these companies’ involvement and significance for you and me, many of them have a much greater degree of influence than most nations.”

International engagement between the public and private sectors has become quite common in recent months. Officials and governing bodies in Europe have pressured tech corporations in multiple ways. (RELATED: EU May Demand That US Tech Companies Surrender Personal Data)

The European Union, for example, has threatened to censor social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube if they don’t do even more to combat hate speech, “fake news,” or terrorist propaganda on the respective platforms. Microsoft and Google have also been urged to crack down.

An Austrian court ruled in May that Facebook must remove certain forms of speech on the platform after the country’s Green party was insulted in certain posts. (RELATED: Facebook Pushes Back Against Germany’s Plan To Fight Free Speech)

The Daily Caller News Foundation spoke to several lawyers about American law pertaining to potential liability after several families of Orlando nightclub shooting victims filed a federal lawsuit against Twitter, Facebook and Google.

The relatives argue that the three web platforms “provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts they use to spread extremist propaganda, raise funds, and attract new recruits.” But all of the legal experts, in some respect, told TheDCNF that it’s fairly clear that they cannot be held legally responsible for terrorists using their platforms because of laws already on the books. Eugene Volokh, professor at the UCLA School of Law, said that it’s “a deliberate choice by Congress, aimed at protecting free speech (even at the expense, common with free speech, of tolerating harmful speech).”

“If service providers were liable, they would be subject to powerful pressure to suppress not only speech by actual terrorists, but also any speech that someone claims promotes crime (even if in fact the speech does not do so),” he continued. (RELATED: Twitter Suspends Its CEO At Same Time As Alt-Right Purge)

Yet while the U.S. government wants to protect free speech and doesn’t seem to think that tech companies should be formally culpable for nefarious users’ actions, European officials appear to have a different perspective.

If more countries in Europe appoint unique ambassadors to deal specifically with tech companies around the world, particularly in the U.S., then there will likely be even more legal debates and battles over protocol and policy.

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