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The government should fight ‘corporate villainy’ in tech, Senator Cory Booker says

On the latest Recode Decode, Booker said Silicon Valley is inflaming inequality and Google is ripe for an antitrust investigation.

Senate Votes On Nomination Of Betsy DeVos To Be Secretary Of Education Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Democratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker says “anti-democratic forces” are “undermining the strength and power of citizenship” in America. And he’s not talking about Russia — he’s talking about corporations.

“You have to understand, I am a guy that believes in the power businesses have,” Booker said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. “I believe that market forces are really important to drive wealth creation, to drive middle-class growth, but the problem we have right now in America is a perversion of the free market, where corporate villainy is reigning.”

On the new podcast, Booker told Recode’s Tony Romm that he believes Congress and regulators are being too lax about the size of giants like Amazon and Google. Calling tech’s wave of consolidation “not a positive trend,” he questioned if Silicon Valley, as well as other industries, are inflaming inequality and shirking their responsibility on issues like diversity and job automation and outsourcing.

“We’ve got to start having a conversation in this country: How are we going to measure the success of the tech sector?” Booker asked. “Is it by its ability to create a small handful of billionaires, or the ability for us to create pro-democracy forces — empowering individuals, improving quality of life, improving financial security, expanding opportunity — the kind of things we want largely for democracy?”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn and Stitcher.

Booker compared the size and power of Silicon Valley to Wall Street and indicated that he’d like to see America being more aggressive, like the E.U., which levied a $2.7 billion fine levied on Google last month.

“We have regulatory agencies that just aren’t doing their jobs,” Booker said. “You see this with big banks. The entire crisis we just came through, what’s amazing to me is we haven’t learned the lessons and we’re not protecting the consumer.”

“So should the U.S. government take a look at Google?” Romm asked.

“I think the U.S. government absolutely should take a look at Google,” Booker said.

“On grounds for an antitrust case?”

“I think the U.S. government should be far more active in antitrust actions because when they have taken actions, it’s often created collateral benefits to society. Microsoft, Bell Labs have all resulted in ... these are major U.S. antitrust cases that now are looked at years later and saw many benefits to U.S. consumers and to innovation that comes from a lot of these actions.”

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