Senator Mark Warner Talks Musk’s Twitter, Legislating Killer Robots and Cybersecurity

Senator Mark Warner established himself as a tech-savvy leader before being elected the state of Virginia’s governor in 2002. Warner has a long history with technology.

He found himself heavily involved in the mobile industry during his time at Columbia Capital, and he was an early supporter of Nextel, a telecommunications company.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) invited Warner to appear on a panel alongside fellow senators Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Nevada’s Jacky Rosen.

The reason for their presence is a broader, ongoing initiative to bring lawmakers to CES as technology and the policies that govern them are becoming a fundamental part of our lives.

Warner has made technology the centerpiece of his work in Congress’s upper chamber, from the long-standing technological cold war between the U.S. and China to social media accountability.

He was also a chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a strong proponent of the CHIPS act. Attending CES 2023, Warner said he spent his time there,

Learning about the future of tech to better be able to legislate for tomorrow’s tech landscape.

Techcrunch sat down with the senator in a Las Vegas Convention Center meeting room and discussed important technology concerns, from Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition, which has been a mess so far, to cybersecurity and the rise of killer robots.

The Interview With the Senator

A part of their interview regarding technology is below:

Is it time to start having a serious discussion about legislation around police and killer robots?

Truthfully, I have probably not thought about it enough. Using technology without some guardrails — I think we make a mistake with the notion of “go out and innovate, break things.”

Move fast, break things.

I think that’s created some real issues. It’s one of the issues I’ve made the pitch that we need to be involved in the standard-setting entities around the world.

You build your values of transparency or privacy protection. I do think that if you combine technology with AI, you sometimes take the human being out of the decision-making. That scares the dickens out of me.

How will you go about legislating those guardrails on the front end? We’re not very good at it. We usually legislate after the fact, and it blows my mind that we still haven’t done a single thing on social media.

That’s a subject I wanted to broach with the recent Twitter news.

I’m a big supporter of Elon Musk, especially with SpaceX.

As a technological innovator.

Yeah. My concern with him on Twitter is not about putting Trump back on Twitter; it’s because his real source of wealth is Tesla, whether he’s going to be dependent so much on the Communist Party of China in terms of the source of all of his batteries.

If you look at the comments he’s made about the regulatory structure in China, it’s all been positive. And the comments he’s made about infrastructure in Europe or America are generally negative. I worry about undue influence.

So the worry is him using this as a platform to promote these ideas?

I would be concerned that suddenly Twitter prohibits negative comments about the Communist Party in China.

There was an argument [prior to Musk purchasing Twitter] about “free speech” and how it applies to a platform run by a private sector company. If it’s a company he owns, it’s his purview.

I think you can put some restraints on Section 230. I’m not where a lot of the tech community might be. I support free speech. I think you don’t have the right to necessarily have it amplified eight billion times.

Should the FTC be more aggressive with regard to acquisitions and potential monopolies?

Yes. There are some who argue we don’t need additional legislation; they just need a stronger review. I do think that some of the transactions that were allowed could have been precluded. I think, in the long run, it would have made sense.

You made the comment that tech companies are virtual utilities. I am of the view — and I’m not an antitrust expert by any means — that consumer price is the only thing.

Purely capitalistic motives.

Yeah, but also, how do you measure price? People say, “Facebook is free; Google’s free.” It’s not free. I’m not saying it’s morally bad they take our data and monetize it.

I’ll say that.

I’m more squishy than that. But people ought to know what it’s worth.

And they ought to know what data they’re giving up.

Right, right. It’s crazy to me that we’ve still never had a data privacy law in this country.

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