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Roger McNamee on big tech regulation following the Capitol Hill riots

Roger McNamee, Elevation Partners Managing Director & "Zucked" Author, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss what's next for big tech regulation following the riots on Capitol Hill.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: We want to continue our conversation on regulating tech with Roger McNamee, Elevation Partners' managing director and author of "Zucked." And Roger, I just want to follow up on what we ended the last block with. And that's that you were an early investor in Facebook. You were able to get in early. You made a ton of money here off of those investments. I'm curious just now that you have changed your tune, and you're now a critic of these social media companies, I guess, one, did you ever see this coming when you were in your early talks with Mark Zuckerberg? Is this something that you saw as an eventual, I guess, headwind here, going forward? And then, also, just as we look to address some of these issues, would you consider taking some of the profits that you made off of your investments of these social media companies and donating it in the efforts to fight some of this hate speech?

ROGER MCNAMEE: Seana, I was involved with Facebook and specifically, with Mark, from 2006 to 2009. So he reached out to me in 2006. The company had a crisis, and I was able to help him resolve it. And a year later, I got a chance to invest in the company. And my fund Elevation Partners was an early investor and did well in it.

So there were signs beginning in 2009 that Mark's goals were incredibly aggressive. Candidly, I did not imagine there would be any problem like this. And part of the reason I didn't was in those days, the company really didn't have a business model. So it wasn't possible to do harm for what it was-- you know, the way it is now. This business model they have now really began around 2013.

When I first realized there was a problem in 2016, I reached out to Mark and to Sheryl Sandberg right before the election, in October of 2016, to warn them that I thought there was something about the business model, the culture, and the algorithms of Facebook that was allowing bad people to harm innocent people in two areas, civil rights and democracy. And I was looking at a bunch of civil rights things plus Brexit and saying, you really have to protect the US election. I think there's something really bad going on here.

I spent three months after the election pleading with them to work with the government, to get to the bottom of it, and make sure it would never happen again. Because, I mean, they were my friends, and this is a company I was super proud of. It was only after they rejected my support that I became an activist. I just realized I had to do something. And the answer to your question is I've been devoting the money that I made personally to charitable causes since way before I realized there was a problem.

And you know, I look at this as just-- I do this because I think it's important for people like me who are in a position to understand these things to get involved. Because I want the United States to be a democracy. I want our economy to be capitalism, not monopoly. And right now, we're struggling to have either one of those things.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Roger, if your friends wouldn't listen to you, and if you've pointed out that this is bigger than Facebook, does this require the Biden administration to put in place an FCC director who then leads the regulatory, I don't want to say breakup, but assault, to bring them all in line?

ROGER MCNAMEE: So we need way more than antitrust. But the answer to your question is yes, of course. We need great leadership at the Federal Trade Commission. We need great leadership at the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department. You know, there are some amazing candidates out there, and you know, I'm very hopeful that they will pick a good one, not one of the old guard who allowed this to happen.

But think of it. We also need regulations around safety. We need these companies to be held accountable. We need that not just at the corporate level, but the personal level, that-- you know, in the building trades, if you build a building, and it hurts somebody, you're personally liable for that. And that should be true here, too. We really need to change the culture. And that means changes to Section 230 for internet platforms.

But you also need that same thing relative to smart devices, AI, facial recognition, all of which have shown themselves to be tremendously dangerous products. Then you also need privacy regulation. Because at the end of the day, this notion that everything that you ever do can be taken by corporations who then have tools, where they can use that to manipulate your behavior, that is just not acceptable. And I think, as Americans, we should be fighting that hard. And I expect the Bush administration, you know, it's got to focus initially on the pandemic, and then obviously, also the economy. And while it's doing that, it has to, you know, find a way to control disinformation, which is what these guys are all about. And so I'm quite hopeful that they will, in fact, prioritize this as we get control of the pandemic.

SEANA SMITH: Roger, we're out of time. We have 15 seconds. But quickly, I just wanted to follow up on that. If you had to nominate someone, or who do you think will be best, then, to lead the FTC in those efforts?

ROGER MCNAMEE: Well, you know, right now Rohit Chopra is-- who's already on the FTC, I think he'd be a fantastic chair of the commission.

SEANA SMITH: Right, Roger McNamee, Elevation Partners' managing director and author of "Zucked," we really appreciate you taking the time to join us. We hope to have you back on Yahoo Finance Live soon. Thanks so much.

ROGER MCNAMEE: My pleasure. Take care. Have a great day.