- The backlash against Silicon Valley is growing.
- Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, has some advice for the likes of Facebook and Google: Accept you've screwed up, and work with regulators to fix it.
- He urged them not to take the same combative approach that Microsoft took under his leadership when faced with a antitrust lawsuit.
- "Knowing what I know now, I would have resolved the issues," Ballmer said.
As Silicon Valley battles scandals and increasing regulatory scrutiny, Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has warned Facebook and Google not to make the same mistake Microsoft did.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer in Washington D.C., the former executive was asked how he sees the current storm clouds over the tech industry playing out. His answer: Tech companies should try to work quickly with government to find a solution — unlike what Microsoft did under his tenure, as it faced an antitrust suit from the government.
"I'm not trying to do a 'woe is me' thing, but remember we got by an antitrust lawsuit at Microsoft by the [US Department of Justice]. This government stuff [...] it's serious stuff. And knowing what I know now, I would have resolved the issues," Ballmer said.
"I think we should have figured out how to settle matters out earlier than we did. I do not think it was helpful for our company, the path we took. I think the tech industry right now [...] could well repeat that experience.
He went on: "I think fully accepting that things are not the way they need to be, and going to work on those issues in a way that people understand you are serious about, as opposed to the tech industry generally appearing arrogant, I understand that."
The American tech industry has historically enjoyed a rosy reputation, but that is changing.
Facebook has been beset by scandals, from the spread of Russian propaganda to Cambridge Analytica scandal. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have been roiled by internal employee protests against company contracts with the military and law enforcement agencies. There is growing scrutiny of whether the tech industry has too much power, and suggestions of antitrust action are being thrown around.
Ballmer is urging the tech industry to get over it, accept there's a problem, and work with regulators to fix it.
"I also think it's important it be clear where and what kind of direction will come ... somebody's got to decide what's okay and what's not," he added. "I don't think it should be Congress. I do think it should in general be one of the regulatory agencies. They can dig in, they understand this stuff, they can keep it out of the political realm by and large."
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