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Senator Chuck Schumer says the world would be a ‘worse place’ without Amazon

On Recode Decode, Schumer says he’s “sympathetic” to tech giants like Facebook and Amazon.

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Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer Speaks At The University Of Louisville's McConnell Center Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Tech companies are changing everyday life in the United States, and not always in good ways — but on balance, Senator Chuck Schumer says he’d rather they regulate themselves than wait for government to step in.

“For a decade, tech was a great, great thing,” Schumer said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “It allowed people to agglomerate. It allowed people who had no power, who didn’t own a newspaper, who didn’t own a TV station, who didn’t have a megaphone, to get together and have power.”

The senior Democratic senator from New York, currently the minority leader in the U.S. Senate, said he agrees with the legislation proposed by his colleagues Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar, requiring transparency in political ads on platforms like Facebook. But he’s wary of Congress directly involving itself with the content on those sites.

“Government regulation of speech is a frightening thing and has a bigger downside than upside,” Schumer said. “So I approach the issue with care, maybe moreso than some of my colleagues who have similar politics to me.”

Speaking with Recode’s Kara Swisher and Democratic political strategist Hilary Rosen, he characterized himself as “sympathetic” to tech giants like Amazon, recognizing that they have had both disruptive and positive effects on his constituents — and, in Amazon’s case, more of the latter.

“Amazon does great things for huge amounts of people, and they only have three to four percent of the retail market,” he said. “Could it get greater? Yes! But again, I’d be careful. They are creating cheaper, better competition.”

“Yes, they’re big,” Schumer added. “Big can do good things as well as bad things, and you’ve got to separate the wheat from the chaff. Would the world be a better place or a worse place if there were no Amazon right now? My guess is a worse place. And yet, there’s a lot of problems, for sure.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Sen. Schumer also talked about how he’s thinking about the social media giants whose platforms were used by Russian agents posing as Americans during the 2016 election.

“Facebook is a very powerful force,” he said. “I think, overall, it’s been a very positive force and now people are taking advantage of the openness of the net. And Facebook has an obligation to try and deal with it.”

“I talked to them,” Schumer added. “I truly believe they want to, I truly believe they know their future is at stake with this. I also believe it’s a hard thing to do.”

The “first big test” for Facebook and its peers, he said, will be whether they are similarly manipulated for political ends in America’s midterm elections later this year.

“The amount the Trump administration is doing against Russia is, appallingly, zero, almost,” Schumer said. “So it’s up to tech to do more. And I do think they’re making an effort — not only because it’s the right thing to do but because they know that down the road, their survival depends on it.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

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