- Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said today’s tech companies have learned from his experience in the ’90s and early ’00s when the PC software giant was sued over antitrust concerns.
- He also called for increased regulation of today’s tech firms, given the critical role they play in society.
- The comments come as companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google are under scrutiny over their size and influence in the market and the way they gather and handle consumer data.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The size and influence of tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple have resulted in such firms coming under scrutiny in recent years, with Democratic senator and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren calling for new regulation that would break up certain companies and restrict them from competing within the same marketplaces they operate.
Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates grappled with similar antitrust concerns more than two decades ago, and says Silicon Valley has learned from his company’s legal debacle.
“I, for the early years of Microsoft, bragged to people that I didn’t have an office in Washington, DC, and eventually I came to regret that statement, because it was kind of almost like taunting Washington, DC, ” he said at the Economic Club of Washington DC, according to CNN. “Now, [the other tech companies] are very engaged.”
The Department of Justice sued Microsoft in 1998 over concerns that it was using unfair tactics to reinforce a monopolist position in the PC market. A judge ruled that Microsoft should be broken up into two parts, but that decision was blocked and then overturned on appeal.
Now, Gates is calling for increased regulation of large tech firms at a time when firms like Google, Facebook, and Apple are being criticised over a number of controversies ranging from potential antitrust concerns to the way these companies protect and collect consumer data. Facebook in particular has been caught up in privacy scandals in recent years, among the biggest being the revelation in 2018 that Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm with ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, harvested data from millions of Facebook profiles.
“Technology has become so central that governments have to think: What does that mean about elections?” Gates said, according to CNN. “What does that mean about bullying? What does it mean about wiretapping authorities that let you find out what’s going on financially or drug money laundering, things like that. So yes, the government needs to get involved.”
Gates continued to say that regulation could be critical in ensuring that technology is being used in a beneficial way.
“The fact that now this is the way that people consume media has really brought it into a realm that we need to shape it so that the benefits outweigh the negatives,” he said.
Lawrence Lessig, who served as a special master in the Microsoft case, said the lawsuit was “extremely successful in creating the conditions for the Silicon Valley boom in the beginning of this century,” when speaking with Business Insider in a previous interview. “And we ought to learn that lesson.”
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