Technology regulationHow Much Regulation of the Tech Industry Is Too Much?

Published 24 February 2021

As prominent figures, including former President Donald Trump, are banned from social media platforms for posting disinformation or inflammatory remarks, technology regulation has become a hot topic of debate. “We are living in times where technology has fundamentally changed almost all aspects of our lives,” says UCLA’s Terry Kramer. “It is within this context that we must carefully balance and enable the advantages of technology, which can improve our lives, improve our connectedness, lower the cost of critical goods and services, and improve health care against forces that can create negative externalities. Developing a critical understanding of the trade-offs is essential.”

As prominent figures, including former President Donald Trump, are banned from social media platforms for posting disinformation or inflammatory remarks, technology regulation has become a hot topic of debate. Terry Kramer, an adjunct professor of operations and technology management at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the faculty director of the Easton Technology Management Center, studies how to achieve the right balance between advancing technology and minimizing negative consequences.

In 2012, he was appointed by President Obama to be the ambassador who would serve as the U.S. head of the delegation for the World Conference on International Telecommunications, which looked at policy regarding a free and open internet, the need to address cybersecurity threats and the need for liberalized markets to accelerate global broadband access.

Kramer’s new course at Anderson, “Technology and Society,” will focus on the promising applications of technology as well as the backlash against it, known as “techlash.”

Mike Fricano and Cheryl Cheng of UCLA Newsroomtalked with Kramer.

Mike Fricano and Cheryl Cheng: The debate about regulating technology and tech companies is nearly as old as the internet. What can you share about the history of these discussions?
Terry Kramer
: We are living in times where technology has fundamentally changed almost all aspects of our lives. It has changed how we communicate, in areas such as social media and videoconferencing; how we understand and explore the world via internet search capabilities; how we shop, with e-commerce capabilities; and how health care is delivered. In an era of COVID-19, technology has allowed us to continue carrying on with our lives, albeit with some inconveniences. I regularly think about what our COVID-19 experience would have been like 10 years ago, without these capabilities. If we look at the impact of technology, we can find notable examples in emerging economies, where technology has allowed access to the internet and leapfrog innovation. And social networks have been a critical part of the free speech movement and have created a “free model,” allowing for connectedness in markets where the ability to pay is very low.

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