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Despite who wins the election, Big Tech regulations are coming: Common Sense Media CEO

The tech industry continues to face antitrust scrutiny from U.S. and European regulators. Jim Steyer - Common Sense Media Founder & CEO joins Yahoo Finance to discuss what the 2020 election outcome means for Big Tech giants.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to "Yahoo Finance Live." We're still waiting to get some more updates here on the race to 270 in the presidential election, as well as some key Senate races. But regardless of how those go, leading up to this, we did see pressure from both Republicans and Democrats on Big Tech company. Those stocks remain in the green here today. But it raises questions about some of those issues, regarding liability, tied back to these tech companies, antitrust issues still being discussed as well.

So here to discuss all of those things with us and where those go post-election is Jim Steyer Common Sense Media Founder and CEO, as well as the author of "Which Side Of History: How Technology Is Reshaping Democracy and Our Lives," alongside Yahoo Finance's tech expert, Dan Howley here. And Jim, you know, we talked about a lot of these issues, really both Republicans, Democrats beating up the CEOs of these companies in hearing after hearing. So how do you see the pressure maybe building once we get past the election on Big Tech? And what changes do you expect?

JIM STEYER: I think there are going to be big changes, Zack. I think we're at the moment, where you're finally going to see serious regulatory measures at the Federal level. Number one, platform accountability-- that's Section 230. And by the way, that's been a huge issue in this election with all the misinformation and disinformation, which continues by the way. On both Facebook and YouTube, they've been putting out false videos and amplifying that. So that the big issue. That's platform accountability.

Number two, anti-trust is clearly going to be on the table, whether it's the Biden administration or a carryover from the Google antitrust suit that was just filed. And third, privacy. So as you may know, in California, we just sponsored and passed a major new ballot initiative that strengthens the consumer privacy laws in California, which are essentially the law of the land. But I think in 2021, you'll see federal action on platform accountability, on privacy, and also on antitrust-- big regulation, big discussion coming, no matter who's president.

AKIKO FUJITA: Jim, let me ask you specifically about that proposition in California. This extension or expansion, you could argue, of CCPA. What does it particularly mean for companies like a Facebook or Google in this state? And what are the implications beyond? Because there's no question. The federal level, as well as other states, have been looking to California to see how this regulation shakes down.

JIM STEYER: So Akiko, we wrote Common Sense Media. We were the authors and the sponsors of the CCPA. And then, we were the co-sponsors of this new ballot initiative that just passed.

The number one thing it does-- it creates an enforcement Bureau-- basically a new enforcement Bureau, like the EPA for the environment. Now, there's a privacy enforcement Bureau in California to enforce my privacy rights and every consumer's privacy rights. So that's number one.

It strengthens some of this stuff related to kids and enforcement around children. And also, it limited the way that data can be used by companies like Facebook if it isn't specifically for the purpose they require. That's called data minimization.

So it augmented and strengthened the CCPA. And will that be the model for the Federal legislation? Probably it will be. Yes.

DAN HOWLEY: Jim, this is Dan Howley. I want to ask, you know, if we look at changes to Section 230, obviously, there's conversation on both sides of the aisle about changing it, not necessarily why it should be changed. If it does change though, does that then, I guess, limit the chances for innovation in the future? You know, it is considered a foundational piece of the modern internet to allow companies to be able to moderate the content on their sites. If you do expect to see change, what does that then mean for the internet and the growth of that industry as a whole?

JIM STEYER: You know, Daniel, I totally think that we can deal with Section 230 and not stifle innovation. That's sort of the classic argument. But in truth, having had conversations with the people who run the largest companies about this, they all know that there is going to be some form of platform accountability coming.

Right now, 230 is blanket immunity for them. It's sort of a get out of jail free card, particularly for companies like Facebook. And so I think they change is coming. And I think you're going to want to protect smaller companies, right? And we will be in the mix of this.

I mean, if you look at the book-- Zack, you mentioned my new book, "Which Side Of History." So I have an article in there-- my own article-- with Bruce Reed, who is the chief policy advisor for Joe Biden and is with him in Wilmington right now. And you know, we wrote about how 230 is bad for kids. Because it really is. Because there's no restrictions whatsoever on that content.

That said, you're right, Daniel, that 230 is going to be modified. I would predict that. But I think there are going to be special provisions to protect smaller businesses, who, if the regulation were too onerous, could really be stifled.

But the big issues really involve Facebook, and Instagram, YouTube-- the big social media platforms that have been held completely unaccountable. And you need to be held to account, as we've seen during this election cycle. So I think it can be done very well.

DAN HOWLEY: I just want to get your thoughts real quick on the anti-trust issue, right? We're talking about this non-stop. DOJ already has their suit against Google. FTC is looking into Facebook. Amazon, Apple, they're both up for their own probes. I guess, do you see--

ALEXA: According to Wikipedia, Apple and--

DAN HOWLEY: Got a little--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

DAN HOWLEY: --behind me.

ZACK GUZMAN: They're listening, Daniel. They're listening right now.

DAN HOWLEY: There we go.

AKIKO FUJITA: This fits perfectly into the data privacy conversation.

JIM STEYER: Yeah, but keep going, Daniel. What's the issue on anti-trust?

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, so I guess, you know, do you see any kind of changes in the legislature or the fact that it's going to be a divided government, an impediment to anti-trust law changes in the legislature? Do you think that they will actually make a move? Or do you think they'll just hand it off to the DOJ?

JIM STEYER: I think it will come from the state AGs. So I actually think that Google will continue at the Justice Department, right? And I predict it'll be a Biden Justice Department. And I think they'll pursue that however they choose. They've got to pick a new attorney general once they're in office.

But then, I'd say the second will be that the state AG is more than the FTC. You mentioned the Federal Trade Commission being the likely people to look at Facebook from an anti-trust position. I think that's possible. But I think it's even more likely that the state AG is led by the attorney general of New York. Letitia James will lead an anti-trust case against Facebook that will call for them to divest themselves of Instagram and WhatsApp. So I think you're going to see multiple anti-trust cases coming in 2021.

I actually think they're good for the industry in the long run. I mean, the one thing I'd want to say to a business audience is-- and this is true about privacy; this is true about platform accountability-- in the long run, the tech industry is going to be healthier with common sense regulation. The wild, wild west, where there's no regulation of the major tech companies is not really that good for anybody. But it's not even that good for the tech companies long-term.

So I think common sense regulation is coming. I think that's good. And we're going to be part of the discussion. I'm sure you're going to be talking about it a bunch on Yahoo Finance too.

AKIKO FUJITA: Jim, I want to get back to the issue of privacy now that we've established that there are devices listening to Dan Howley there. With the CCPA, and now that Prop 24 has passed, what does that mean from a consumer standpoint? Is it going to be like a GDPR, where we just got a question when you go to a website to say, well do you opt in for this data to be collected? Or is it going to be something that is a little more meaningful?

JIM STEYER: I think both. I think at the beginning, Akiko, it's going to be like GDP is in Europe. We're involved in the passage of that legislation in Europe as well. And right now, if you're a California citizen, you already get questions right now, because of the CCPA that allow you to basically delete your personal information and not provide all sorts of stuff. It's really in your interest, in my interest, the whole public's interest. It gives the consumer much more power over their own personal data. Period.

I think going forward, what's going to happen is I think businesses will emerge that become agents for the consumer really on mass scale, so that you, or Zack, or Dan, or whoever really has an agent that represents your privacy interests if you see what I'm saying-- a business that does that. And for example, Common Sense-- you may or may not know this-- has the only set of privacy ratings in the world. All the businesses use them. We write them.

It's a B2B business. But it evaluates most of the large apps and social media platforms for privacy. And the companies really trust the Common Sense rating.

I think you're going to see more of that coming. I think you're just going to see more and more public awareness of privacy, and more and more the average person, the average consumer, the average voter using this information to protect their privacy. So I think it's a healthy trend. And I think it will really accelerate in 2021.