Rep. Kelly Armstrong Keynote
8:40PM Jan 26, 2021
North Dakota, so I'm going to quickly introduce him and then we're going to play his testimony, Congressman Kelley Armstrong has served the North Dakota at large districts since being elected first in 2018. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee and antitrust subcommittee, Congressman Armstrong has been key in the big tech hearings that have been happening in Congress. He was also noted in Wired Magazine, back in August for coming across the aisle and working with Congresswoman Jaya Paul from Washington, and providing the key testimony in the big tech antitrust hearings so we are very excited to have congressman Armstrong's remarks here at state of the net. And without further ado, I will turn off my camera and we'll get started.
Greetings. I'm Kelly Armstrong and I represent the great state of North Dakota in the US House. Thank you for hosting me. I'm honored to participate in this year's state of the NEC conference. Unfortunately, we are not able to conduct this conference in person, but I cannot think of an organization better suited to host a virtual event than the internet Education Foundation, my home state of North Dakota may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of technology. Yet, like most places internet based technologies are a vital part of our 21st century economy. We have some of the best rural broadband access and speeds in the country, and Microsoft's second largest campus is in Fargo, North Dakota. Grand Forks has the country's premier commercial drone Park and hosts an air force base that is home to several UAV squadrons, and our governor Doug burgum is a former software executive and cares deeply about these issues, autonomous vehicle technologies are being applied to farm equipment in the Red River Valley and companies like bushel a successful agribusiness website and app developer allow farmers streamline access to grain elevator storage and sales on mobile devices. And while I'm on a never ending quest to inform people about how we live and work in North Dakota, I would like to share some insight on how members of Congress are grappling with pressing issues related to internet based technologies. Most of you have superior technical knowledge compared to the average member of Congress, myself included. However, in order to enact the right policies that knowledge has to be effectively communicated to policymakers balanced with competing approaches and political considerations and be properly implemented. It is a challenging task, especially when we consider the number of contentious issues, and the ever increasing rate of technological change some of the areas where we face challenges include content moderation, deep platforming antitrust data privacy. Artificial Intelligence ditz disinformation and deep fakes geo fence warrants and facial recognition. The complexity is only increased when you add the growing tide of techno nationalism among geopolitical powers and our own fragmented politics. I do not suggest that I have all the answers. Rather, I offer my experience as a member of congress so we can better understand how to work together to solve these issues. I spent a significant amount of time during my first term, participating in the House Judiciary committee's antitrust investigation of competition in digital markets. In many respects the last few years have been the result of a growing chorus of antitrust concern about dominant tech platforms from both sides of the aisle.
At the same time, I was working to earn a spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which I joined earlier this year. As many of you know, these two House committees have jurisdiction over the most pressing tech issues that I previously mentioned, judiciary generally covers intellectual property and antitrust. Well, EMC covers absolutely everything else. Perhaps coincidentally my focus during this antitrust investigation turned to an issue that spans the jurisdiction of judiciary and DNC, which is how recent data privacy measures and competition are inversely related, it became apparent that data privacy measures, whether self initiated are in response to legislation like the EU. General data protection regulation, often resulted in a consolidation of user data with a consumer facing platform. These are often the platforms that receive significant antitrust scrutiny. They are also the firm's most able to afford the significant compliance costs of accompanying privacy regulation, and they sometimes welcome it. The result is further entrenchment of these dominant firms and increased competition concerns predictably I was criticized for daring to consider such non antitrust issues during an antitrust investigation. I was criticized for stepping outside of judiciary's jurisdiction. My inquiries were also incorrectly characterized as promoting antitrust remedies as a way to solve privacy challenges. It is true that algorithms arguably provide for a greater competitive advantage that data can be non rivalrous and the value of data diminishes over time. Yet we cannot avoid the fact that user data is the coin of the realm. It is so valued unable to be monetized so effectively that many platforms offer their services in return for access to this data instead of a monetary payment. Well this is not regulatory to this audience, much of the country has only recently come to understand the ramifications. When I speak to high school students who are prodigious users of these platforms, they are just beginning to understand that they are not the customer, they are in fact the product, or more precisely, their data is the product antitrust enforcement may not be able to solve these privacy issues, but the notion that Congress should not consider the use of data during a tech antitrust invest investigation is in my opinion indefensible. And I trust is not the panacea. But any remedy must consider the interplay of these two subjects. The real question is whether reducing competition is an inadvertent byproduct of privacy measures are an intended outcome. The call for greater privacy, which I support cannot offer dominant firms, a sword to use against their competition. We must be skeptical when a company touts its decision to cut off third party cookies in the name of enhancing user privacy. Well less entities will have access to that user data, the company continues to collect the same amount of user data with its consumer facing tools, it continues to monetize that data. The benefits to users by consolidating that data with a single company is debatable. What is not debatable is that the decision also harms competition in a market that already faces serious allegations of anti competitive conduct. So again, we must ask whether privacy measures are being used as a sword against competitors. We must ask the same question when a company cites privacy as justification for consolidating its ad tech stack by requiring all ad purchases on its platforms to be routed through its demand side tools. Again, it is the same inquiry when it company ends the practice of using third party ad analytics in favor of its own tools, who is the real beneficiary of consolidating and ad tech stack in the name of privacy offered, the answer is not the user, I offer this anecdote to provide an example of why we cannot consider these issues in a silo tech antitrust and data privacy are intrinsically linked, our responses must acknowledge this fact, and that begins with coordination between the judiciary and commerce committees in Congress, the right policy created by the judiciary committees cannot be the wrong policy for issues considered by the commerce committees. This is not limited to privacy and antitrust, I can offer similar examples of how market power can be used to undermine intellectual property rights, or how market share and high entry costs mean that a social media platform does not suffer market consequences when a significant portion of the population thinks their speech is being silenced due to violent bias. The threat of dominant market shares connects all of these issues, whether in Congress, North Dakota, or anywhere around the globe. Tech is increasingly a part of every industry, and every aspect of our life. We need to stop thinking about tech in terms of siloed issues or committee jurisdiction or specific legal topics, the intersection of tech issues will only expand growing, and grow more complex as it further penetrates other economic set sectors like healthcare and financial services. We must think and act in a comprehensive manner. It is not my intention to be overly critical of the tech industry, especially while participating in an important industry conference, many of the same companies that we critique are the firms that help us work and connect with loved ones, while physically distancing over the past year, as challenging as the covid 19 pandemic has been, we might be facing economic devastation without the internet based technologies that have allowed us to remain productive during these challenging times. I have engaged in this field as a member of congress because I know the stakes. I understand the importance of these technologies to the economy. national security, and nearly every aspect of our future. I am involved because we have to get it right. I hope that we can work together to ensure that we do. Thank you for inviting me to participate. My door is always open, and I look forward to working with each and every one of you as we confront these challenges head on. I hope you all have a great conference.
All right. Thanks so much to congressman Armstrong. It was really great to hear from his, his perspective on the issues in tech, and a quick side note too. I like to joke about North Dakota. We run a thing called the congressional app challenge here the internet Education Foundation, and Carson Armstrong, obviously represents the at large district and his competition every year is always excellent so no matter where you are in the country we always find excellent people in STEM and we really appreciate him and his team working so hard to get us some testimony and some remarks, for this year's state of the net conference. So.