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Box CEO: Breaking up big tech is ‘not the right solution’

Box Co-Founder and CEO Aaron Levie joins 'Influencers with Andy Serwer' to share his thoughts on big tech regulation and the relationship between Washington and Silicon Valley.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: Big tech has gotten a lot bigger during COVID. Is that something that's good or bad?

AARON LEVIE: I guess it depends on if you're in big tech or a very happy customer of big tech. But, you know, I think, in general, it was almost an inevitability that the leading technology platforms of our time were only going to get bigger and bigger. Our lives are only becoming more dependent on digital technologies, whether it is our social networks, whether those are the mobile devices we use or the marketplaces that we purchase from, like, e-commerce platforms, or cloud Infrastructure from Amazon or Microsoft or Google.

All of these underlying platforms were only going to get bigger over time. And what COVID did was sort of accelerated that adoption that maybe would have played out over a 5 or 10-year period into a matter of quarters or a one-year timeframe. But I don't think that that acceleration is either good or bad. I think that it's going to cause us to ask questions about, you know, how should we regulate these platforms in the digital age?

We already knew that these were the most powerful platforms in our lives and in the economy. Now the question is, what type of regulation is going to be required to keep these companies in check, to make sure that we protect consumers, to make sure that there's fair and open competition within these-- within these ecosystems? And these are going to be really important questions, obviously, for the Biden administration, for Congress in the coming years.

And it'll be really interesting to see, like, where do we actually end up from a regulation standpoint? I think, for the most part, we've sort of treated this as a kind of a one-size-fits-all type of issue, where, you know, the conversation is we break up big tech. I tend to think that that's probably not the right solution for a lot of the issues that we deal with. I think we actually just need modern regulation and modern forms of regulating the digital economy, whether that's in the form of, again, marketplaces or social media.

But I don't think the issue is necessarily just the size of these companies in terms of their market caps or their revenue. I think it's really the powerful position that they play in our daily lives today. And we need modern forms of regulation to ensure that these platforms are being used appropriately and being run, you know, for the good of consumers.

ANDY SERWER: Hey, Aaron, can I ask you to drill down into that a little bit? Do you have any specific ideas as to how that could be accomplished?

AARON LEVIE: You know, I think the part of the issue is that if you look at how these congressional hearings have played out, they've combined companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook into one conversation. And the reality is is that the issues that each of those companies are dealing with from a competitive standpoint or their position of power are completely different, right? For Facebook and Twitter, the issue is around the information that we see, the censorship, or lack thereof, in some cases.

And how do we make sure that we are ensuring that the right kind of information is being spread on those platforms, and we don't get this information, and we don't, you know, end up having harmful information spreading on those platforms? The way you would regulate that is entirely different from how you would regulate Apple or Amazon because of the success that they have as a at scale marketplace. And so, for instance, probably in something like Facebook or Twitter, we need regulation that maybe looks more like when we had seatbelts become law.

Like, what do we do to protect consumers, and how do we have guardrails in these platforms? As opposed to somehow breaking up these companies is going to be the solution to this. So I think on social media, we need one set of regulations to deal with the spread of information. In terms of large marketplaces, I think the question is, are we-- are these platforms so powerful that they can stamp out competition in an unfair way that would obviously raise antitrust concerns?

And, you know, what are the rules, then, of how those marketplaces need to be regulated and governed? And I think what we need is modern digital approaches to that as opposed to taking laws that were written for the 1800s or the 1900s and trying to apply them to the 21st century.