Opinion

GARY SHAPIRO: Congress — Stop Attacking America’s Tech Leaders

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Gary Shapiro President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association

A global battle for technological dominance is underway. We stand on the brink of amazing advances that will give us 5G broadband, self-driving vehicles (SDVs), artificial intelligence (AI), personalized medicine, robotics and so much more — innovations that will change our lives for the better. The national and political system winners in these battles stand to reap enormous rewards.

Unfortunately, Western economic success is not manifest destiny. As China makes strides in cutting-edge technologies such as AI and SDVs, some politicians in the United States and European Union are trying to tear down the very conditions that gave rise to our initial success.

The House and Senate Judiciary Committees held hearings to consider accusations of monopoly and negligence made against U.S. tech companies. And several 2020 U.S. presidential hopefuls are promoting plans to break up and regulate U.S. tech companies, despite the fact (or perhaps because) these companies provide services that are extremely popular with consumers. More, some policymakers want to weaken or even eliminate Section 230, the legal framework behind U.S. online leadership.

Across the Atlantic, the E.U. has marshaled a series of attacks on U.S. tech firms. Citing antitrust principles as a subterfuge, E.U. leadership is challenging the underpinning of our most successful companies. Increasingly, those European leaders value privacy, copyright, taxation and other competing interests as more important than innovation. The General Data Protection Regulation and E.U. Copyright Directive may be well-intentioned, but they sacrifice innovation and consumer access to information for other competing interests.

This would be fine if Europe were isolated. But as the West handcuffs Western companies in the corporate and national economic battle for economic growth and innovation primacy, our totalitarian competitors play by different rules and have a clear path to economic and technological supremacy. Consider AI, which requires massive data and technical firepower. China is leading in this field, with 1.4 billion people, millions of scientists, one language and a national commitment to primacy in AI. Does privacy-first Europe have much hope to compete? Even the U.S. will struggle to stay ahead of the Chinese.

Western policymakers and public attention remain focused on the handful of mega-companies that have delighted consumers and competed their way to the top. These companies have occasionally erred, and are constantly finding their way in uncharted areas. But the rules designed to rein them in may harm their potential competitors and new entrants more seriously.

In the wake of this techlash, let’s not forget the facts. The technology available to us today can connect us, help us and heal us like never before. A small business owner is able to scale her business on the internet and reach customers around the world. SDVs will open new pathways to independence for older adults and people with disabilities, while vastly reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roadways. AI and new digital health technologies create the opportunity to take down diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s – and cut our skyrocketing health care costs. These technologies are not only a core element of our economy – they are increasingly the core of many of our freedoms. They ensure our freedoms to associate, to share ideas, to create content and to exercise our choice in religion.

I’m confident we can develop a solution that preserves our values and promotes innovation — just as I’m confident that the market will replace bad players more swiftly and effectively than lawmakers. Consumers want convenience and competition, privacy and connectivity. Ingenuity comes from the need to compete and stay relevant in an environment where market leadership is notoriously ephemeral.

This hyper-charged competition ensures users have access to a constant stream of new and life-changing innovations. It will also demonstrate the economic effectiveness of our Western-style democracy and cultural values, where we use innovation to protect and respect the individual rather than as a means of social control.

I urge our leaders to recognize the global realities that we’re facing on the tech front and find an approach that honors our historic commitments to liberty and privacy, while paving the way for future prosperity.

Gary Shapiro (@GaryShapiro) is president of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), a group that lobbies on behalf of the tech industry.


 The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.