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Full video and transcript: Microsoft President Brad Smith at Code 2018

“If you create tech that changes the world, the world is going to want to govern you.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith Asa Mathat

Kara Swisher: Let’s begin with someone I’ve known for maybe 25 years or something like that, Brad Smith. He’s the president of Microsoft. Brad?

Brad Smith: Hey, Kara.

So, so much to talk about. I can’t believe we actually ... I covered the Microsoft trial.

I remember well. I remember seeing you in the halls of Congress.

Yes, I did. I was there the whole time. Just wandering around, trying to write things for the Washington Post.

So let’s start there. Because it was a long time ago, but Microsoft has been through this, and it was Microsoft the scary, Microsoft the monopolist. You got your head handed to you by the investigation. Let’s talk about that experience right now. Because I think it’s a really good thing to think about. That came in really close there, just the camera that came in.

Let’s talk about what happened in that experience, from your perspective?

It’s interesting, because on one level, it feels like yesterday to some of us who lived through it. And for many people who work in the tech sector today and they sort of never heard about it.

Right.

But it was a gut-wrenching experience, I think it’s fair to say for those of us who worked for Microsoft at the time. As I like to say, we went from being the New York Mets to the New York Yankees. You know, we were the little team, and then all of a sudden we were this behemoth that lost everybody’s support. And we ended up with the U.S. government, states, all coming after us, and a case that we lost on an appeal in 2001. And I think as much as anything, there were a couple of things we learned.

One is, I think if you create technology that changes the world, the world is going to want to govern you. It’s going to want, in some measure, to regulate you. And you have to come to terms with that and figure out how you’re going to navigate that and step up to the responsibilities that the world wants you to assume.

And the second thing was actually very personal, in a way. You have to develop the ability to look in the mirror and see yourself, not the way you see yourself, but the way other people see you. And guess what? They don’t think you’re quite as good-looking as you thought you were.

Right. Right.

And you have to ...

I’m thinking like scary monster was Microsoft at the time.

Yeah. I think that’s not an unfair way to characterize certainly the way we were perceived by some, absolutely.

All right. But getting away from perception. Let’s talk about what you all did wrong in that. Leading up to it, and then during the trial. We can leave out Bill’s terrible, terrible deposition. Or you can talk about it if you want. Go look at it, it was terrible. Talk about what you all did wrong in the lead-up to it, the things that you didn’t see coming.

Well, I think in some ways, one thing that we did at Microsoft that I think perhaps speaks more broadly to tech today is the justice department argued that Microsoft had a monopoly, that Windows was a monopoly. And we said no, Windows is not a monopoly. Look, anybody can come in, things can change, we may have a high market share, but it’s all temporary. Not only did we lose that argument in court, I think we lost it in the court of public opinion. And in some ways, it was maybe the worst argument to lose. Maybe it was the worst argument to make.

Because what people were fundamentally saying to us is, “Look, you have a responsibility. You have a responsibility that comes with this market share.” And what they heard us saying is, “No, you don’t.” And I think at bottom, a lot of what we’re seeing today is people asking the tech sector, “Do you get it?” Do you understand that, perhaps in the history of business, there has never been an economic sector quite so intertwined with every other economic sector. And there’s never been an industry that’s been so global.

And yeah, I think that frankly, one of the things that Mark Zuckerberg did well when he testified is he said, “We understand that regulation may be in order.” It’s a way of saying, “We understand that government has a role, and we have a responsibility.”

Right. But is it, I don’t want to get ... what did you do wrong? In terms of, you misperceived what they thought of you.

Well look, the essence of the antitrust case itself, for those who don’t recall their 1990s history because it’s 20 years old at this point, was Netscape arose, it had a browser that gained substantial market share, people saw it as a potential rival to Windows. Microsoft created it’s own browser called Internet Explorer. It put the browser into Windows.

The operating system.

And then there were a variety of steps associated with how it was marketed, how it was sold, agreements with others. And the Justice Department argued that in multiple ways, Microsoft engaged in marketing and sales and even product integration techniques that violated the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Right. So what could you, when you were in the meetings with Bill and Steve, what could have changed? Give people insight now into what they could be doing as this regulation moves forward. Then I want to talk about what you think is happening.

Well, I think at it’s heart, one has to decide. Are you going to fight, or are you going to try to work things out? At Microsoft in 1998, we basically said, “We are going to fight this.” In 1999 and 2000, we said we were going to fight this. And then in 2001, after we lost, we said, “Okay, we’re going to work this out.”

My advice in general — not always, because you know, it’s like anything, you can oversimplify — but you’ve got to be open to working things out. The truth is, if we had worked things out in 1998, we might well have been able to work them out before it became the antitrust version of nuclear war. Literally trying to break the company up. That’s what the government pursued. That’s what the district judge ordered. You have to solve problems when they’re small enough to be solved. And you’ve got to do that early, not late.

What was in your culture that didn’t? Was it the aggressive nature of Bill, was it sort of the shy and retiring ...?

No, I think ... Look, every startup on the planet that succeeds, succeeds with this ambition, this enthusiasm. Maybe it even takes a little bit of overexuberance to change the world. It takes big egos even to change the world. And then there comes a moment in time where you’re not the startup anymore, and you have to recognize when that moment comes and you have to be prepared to shift. You have to be mature. You have to listen. You have to build relationships. And you have to compromise.

And I think one of the things one needs to think about in these situations is that it actually, in my view, takes more courage to compromise than it does to fight. But in a company that is built on this enormous energy, it is unfortunately I think sometimes easy to say, “Oh, these people who want to compromise, they’re the weak ones. We’re going to be strong. We’re going to fight.” I think it’s the opposite. It takes courage to compromise.

And it does come from a culture. I remember having lunch with Bill Gates at the Washington Post. I don’t know if you were there.

I was not at that lunch.

It was before this, in the mid90s. And he arrived in a cab, by himself. Fell out of the cab, all sloppy and stuff. He came upstairs and he proceeded to insult the entire Washington Post power structure. Which I was fascinated with. And he actually said to the editor of the Washington Post at the time, when he asked a question, “That’s the stupidest question I ever heard.”

I’ll never forget it. And I was like, “The stupidest, really? Come on.” It can’t be possibly the stupidest. But one of the things he said is ...

Yeah, it could be, because I was told that I had asked that question, perhaps on one occasion. It was well known in Microsoft, that phrase was used.

Yeah, stupidest question. And one of the things he said that stuck me, I’ll never forget it, is that, “What do we need you people for, we don’t have to both with you.” And I put up my hand, and I said, “Except Washington’s full of ex student body vice presidents with subpoena power. So yeah, you do.” It was, after that, it was a downhill relationship with him and me.

But right now, let’s fast-forward to today. What’s going on? What was the impact on you after you compromised? Do you think Microsoft really lost the step it needed?

Yeah, it’s fascinating because you get a lot of different perspectives on where did we succeed, where did we fail and why, in the wake of the antitrust issues. My own personal view, having been in the middle of it for so long, was the single greatest cost was the distraction. Having a Bill Gates, a Steve Balmer, great engineering leaders at our company, spending so much time figuring out how to prepare for a deposition, how to defend themselves at the witness stand, how to implement this, that or the other thing. And you know, you look at the early 2000s, we missed search.

Yeah. It was a big one.

It was, and it wasn’t the only thing we missed, obviously.

Mobile phones.

Yeah. I do think one does have the recognition that nobody is going to catch everything.

Yeah.

And there’s no company here or anywhere else, that is going to see every trend before it emerges. But would we have seen these things if we had been spending more of our time looking for them than looking at these specific issues? It’s a great imponderable. It’s a hypothetical. We’ll never know for sure, but I will say, the odds of seeing these things would have been higher.

Would have been higher. So looking forward to today, the company has changed so drastically in terms of how it is. Y’all look friendly now. It’s weird. Remember when Microsoft was scary? And of course all these 12-year-olds in the room are like, “What? What are you talking about? Microsoft’s not scary. They’re lovely.” What does that do? Where do you put Microsoft now, in this group?

I would like to say that we are in the top tier, in terms of large companies seeking to innovate. It’s scale. I also think that we took that weakness, that weakness of just not knowing how to deal with the world, and because we were forced to look it in the eye, over time we developed some strengths there. You know. And so we are trying to navigate the world.

I think it’s a huge benefit to have a CEO that grew up on one continent and has lived his adult life on another. We talk every day about the responsibility that goes with the opportunities that we have in front of us. And I think we work hard to really try to define what those responsibilities mean for us.

So how do you keep innovation up, then, if you can’t have that aggressive nature within the company?

Well, it’s interesting, because your question equates innovation with being aggressive.

Right.

And I think if you think about our industry the way people thought about it 25 years ago, where it was fundamentally, call it young, typically men, right out of college.

Right.

But that’s not who we should aspire to be. I think what we need to build, not just at Microsoft but across the industry, is a more inclusive approach to developing creativity. Frankly, I think it’s an imperative in the world today. We all work around the world. The notion of having some west-coast all-male orientation to how you innovate is actually a huge problem, I mean even just from the perspective of trying to be successful.

I will always remember when Satya Nedella became the CEO in early 2014. You may recall there was a well-known cartoon of Microsoft at the time. It had the different engineering groups all with like guns pointed at each other.

Yeah.

So we had the first meeting of our senior leadership team, and Satya brought us each a book. The book was called “The Art of Nonviolent Communications.”

All right.

A rather different book.

For Microsoft as I recall, yeah.

Yeah, and you might even say it’s different for a lot of what we associate with tech culture.

Absolutely. I just remember the story of Coke cans being thrown at each other’s heads.

So yeah, this was nonviolent communication. You know, and it’s called really bringing out what people have inside them. Especially in a new era, where you have so many young people that have a very different expectation. I think if you’re under 30, you don’t expect that you’re going to have to wait until you’re 40 for somebody to think about your idea. You expect it to be heard tomorrow. So you just need to create a different culture of innovation, and I think that is one thing that we have been working to do.

So let’s talk about that. I want to get to the immigration issue first.

Yep.

You guys have been very up front compared to most tech companies. Talk a little bit about this, because it’s put you at odds with we’re going to have Linda McMahon on next, from the Trump administration but talk about that. Like what the thinking is behind what you’re going to do with Washington, given the hostility towards immigration.

I think it’s a huge problem. We’ve adopted a philosophy vis-a-vis this White House, or you could argue, with any government. It’s like, let’s partner where we can, let’s stand apart when we should. And for us, it has been clear since the first month of this administration that immigration was an issue on which we need to stand apart. We always try to keep a principled ... you won’t hear us throwing personal insults. But at the level of principle. We fought against the travel ban, you heard us, you might have heard me the day after the DACA decision was announced saying that if any of our employees who are DACA registrants face deportation, we will defend them in court. We will be there by their side, etc.

We have filed our own lawsuit, together with Princeton University and a Princeton student, against DACA. We’ve won that at the district court level. And I fear that this could be a tough summer. Really for three reasons. I fear that we won’t see a compromise come together on DACA. I fear that we may see the administration seek to revoke the work authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders. Virtually every company has either people who are on H1s whose spouses work today under this H4 authority, or you have your own employees. We have 98 employees who are here on an H4. They will lose their jobs if this administration revokes that authority. So that shoe could drop.

There’s another shoe that could drop. The Obama administration extended the time that a student with a STEM background could work under what’s called Optional Practical Training to get an H-1B visa. And that could be cut back, at which point we could have thousands of people suddenly unable to work. And I just think that this is terrible for the country, it’s terrible for the tech sector, and it is a tragedy for the individuals involved. And we may need to use our voice as an industry not just with the public, not just in Congress, but we may need to continue to go to court.

So, what do you do? Talk about that. What are your options? How hostile can you be? How loud can you be? Because I think one of the things, when I was talking to, around the first immigration, and then the transgender thing happened. It was just one thing after the next. Like, what, do you cut it up among you? Google will do the transgender, I’ll do the immigration? Like what happens?

Well, first of all, I think it’s important that as much as possible, we all stand together.

Right.

I think this industry has been united, and I think that’s important, and I think it’s important for us to build alliances with other industries as well. That’s one.

Two, I think we need to be firm in our resolve to take whatever action we can. That means using our voice, it means using our lawyers, it means standing behind our employees and, if necessary, giving them the ability to work in Canada instead of the United States. I do think there’s a third dimension. We have to, again, demonstrate that we do understand there are arguments on the other side, and we listen and we get it.

And I think that there’s two arguments on the other side we need to think about and we need to act upon. The first is, look, we don’t want this to be a country where the only people who succeed are people who move here from other places. We need to keep investing in more computer science education, more digital skills, more broadband access for Americans. Including Americans in rural counties, who are being left behind. And we as an industry can and should do more in that space. So that is one thing that I think we need to do.

Second, I do believe we need to use our voice to be supportive where we can of a reasonable compromise in Congress. I think it would be a great mistake for us to say that people who advocate for border security have nothing to commend in their views. We need to listen and see if there’s a basis for commonality.

So what is the compromise? The other side really isn’t very compromise-oriented, it seems like. It’s like build a wall, build a wall, build a wall, keep them out.

Well, the first thing one sees when one goes to the border with Mexico is there are many parts of Mexico that have a wall. I mean, this is not a border that is without walls. It may not be in it’s entirety.

Well, it’s political theater, what’s going on.

It is political theater. And I think that’s part of the problem. I worry a lot that we could just see a lot of political theater across the political spectrum between now and then.

You worry a lot that we’re going to see a lot of political theater?

Yeah I think ...

I think we’re deep, deep into that.

Into it. Fair enough. But you know, you go to the border, I mean, I’m struck. I’ve been to the border with Mexico. You go to the eastern part of Texas, which is the ... there’s a 40-mile stretch which is the No. 1 entry point not just for illegal migrants, but for drugs. And in this 40-mile stretch, there are 10 miles of wall, there’s 30 miles of open space. If you looked at the technology that is being used to watch what is happening at the border, you would say this was like state of the art 10 years ago.

I stood next to a fellow whose job it is to watch these monitors on a 10-hour shift, and he switches between the monitors, manually, with an Xbox controller. Hey look, I love Xbox, but come on. I think we can do a little bit better with Internet of Things. And then we need an orderly process. We should want a process where people can present themselves in an orderly way, they can apply for asylum if they believe they’re entitled to it. They get represented by counsel, especially if they’re an unaccompanied child. There is room, I believe, for common ground if people want to find it.

I think the No. 1 problem is basically what you alluded to: In an era of such disagreement, I just don’t know that people are looking to find common ground.

So what do tech companies do, as a group of people. Three things. Give me three things.

Well, look, I happen to believe that the most important thing we need to do every day is stand up for our employees. These are people who invest not just their jobs and their careers with us, but when you’re talking about people from other countries, they’re investing us with some responsibility for where they live and how they live. So No. 1, stand up for our employees.

No. 2, I think, show that we are committed and are taking action to creating opportunities for everyone in the country. And not just people that come here from somewhere else. And No. 3, to the extent we can, even in an age where it seems like the loudest insult is what ends up as the biggest headline, we need to preserve some sense of normalcy. Of decency. An ability to reach across an aisle and encourage some real dialogue.

Well, how did that meeting at Trump Tower go? You know I called you all sheeple when you went. But you didn’t say anything about immigration. You didn’t stand up.

No, no, no. You’re talking about the one ...

The first one.

No, we actually did. Absolutely.

To him, in a room, without public.

That’s true.

I love all your little quiet rooms, but I’d love it if you said it out loud.

I will say, first of all, as a matter of operating principle and practice, every meeting that I’ve had with this White House, I’ve always brought up immigration.

Right.

I just want people to know that it matters to our fundamental ability to be successful as a tech sector based in the United States. And then, do we use our voice outside? Yeah, I think we do, Kara. I mean, we’ve sued the administration.

Right.

We’ve gone to Congress. I think it’s fine that we don’t insult people at a personal level. I don’t think that should be the litmus test for whether we’re firm in our resolve.

All right. Let’s finish up talking about what you’re looking at going forward. AI, diversity, you can talk about any of these things. But what do you think the key issues for Microsoft and the tech industry? Now there’s a lot of calls for breaking up Facebook, we’re going to ask Sheryl about that later. And Google, and now there’s ... How do you look at that?

Let me just, maybe, pick two things. You know, that you ... but I think are really important for all of us. One is, we need to think about a future with artificial intelligence, which really involves two fundamental things. One is empowering, let’s call it empowering computers to make more decisions that today have been made by human beings. And the second is the massive use of large data sets.

We need to take the kind of approach that will stand the ethical test of time, and that means that we’re going to have to engage in dialogues around the world about what it means to have people’s data. What is the self-restraint we’re going to exercise when it comes to people’s data? What kind of regulatory dialogue will we have around the world when it comes to the use of data? And I think the other part of that is really, you know, developing a set of ethics around what we will empower computers to do.

We’ve published six ethical principles that we’re trying to use with our engineers to at least carry that dialogue forward. We all have way more to learn than we’ve learned so far.

How do you assess the impact of what happened around Facebook? When you look at them, what did you think as you were watching those hearings? Thank god it’s not me, or what?

I’ve been there.

Yeah.

The first thing I said is that I’ve been there. And I’m not there today, but we all take our turns. It’s easy to say my business model is different from your business model, and it is. I’m doing something that is more responsible than you are, maybe I am. But at the end of the day, a tech company to the general public may just be a tech company. And we all need to just think together about how we manage our way through that responsibility.

Right. One of the tech leaders who is not Facebook said it’s like a viral contagion. They’re making a mess over here and we’re all suffering as a group. So you’re saying that’s okay.

Well, the thing that has bothered me about the dialogue in the industry is, I’ve talked to too many people at other tech leaders, big companies that say, “We don’t want to do anything with them because they have the flu.”

Right.

You know what? We all have to work together. We are all in this together. And we will all have our days when we need somebody to stand by our side. Which is why I’ve been quick to say, hey, if Facebook is doing something that is important and advancing the good of the world — as they often are, often do — we will stand by them. And we do and we will. It doesn’t mean that we adopt their business model. We need to work together.

But then I go to the one other issue I would raise. Diversity and inclusion is one of the fundamental issues.

Let me ask you one question before we get to that.

Sure.

So I asked Tim Cook this, on the MSNBC show. What would you have done if you were Mark Zuckerberg? And he made a response that Mark didn’t like, which is, I wouldn’t be in his position to start with. And then he had a very cogent explanation of privacy.

I remember when I saw a leader of another tech company asked when they were under the antitrust lens whether they would handle it better than Microsoft. And he said, “We’ve studied the mistakes that Microsoft made, and we won’t make the mistakes that Microsoft made.” And I was in the room listening to it, and I said that may be true, but you know what, we all make mistakes. No one should ever assume, in my view, that somehow we’ve got it all figured out and we’re never going to have our difficult days. I think that Facebook is working through a very challenging situation and the rest of us need to work through our own challenging situations. This is not a world where one or two companies have challenges and the rest of us do not.

Right. Finish up on diversity, because then we will get to questions.

I just think it’s one of the fundamental challenges for our industry, of our time. And I think that we all have a lot of work to do, and I think there’s a need for us to come together and change. And it’s not easy, and it takes a long-term commitment, because it is not something that is turned around, at least in Everett’s respect, you know.

Numbers for being the same, in all aspects.

The one thing that I will say is when I became the general counsel of Microsoft, this was in 2002, 22 percent of our lawyers were women. This is a profession in the United States were 35 percent of the lawyers were women. Two months ago, we reached the point where just over 50 percent of our lawyers are women. It took 16 years of sustained work.

In a profession where there are a lot. There’s a large pool.

But one of the things it took was never take the percentage of women in the profession as your own ceiling. You should, at a minimum, seek to perform against the demographics of your profession. And then seek to outperform the profession as a whole.

So why doesn’t that happen, from your perspective?

I think we are beginning. I think that we are living at a time when awareness is growing, and I think that’s a good thing. People are feeling pressure; that is not a bad thing. To me, the No. 1 thing that changed at Microsoft, which I was very happy to see change, was two years ago, when we said that we not only were going to measure everybody, but we were going to establish goals, and the annual bonuses of the senior leadership team and the CEO would be based in part on whether those goals were achieved.

It’s like everything in business, if you pay people to perform, guess what? They perform. And if you don’t pay them to perform, good luck, I don’t think that the odds of success are nearly as high.

Last question I have, and then we will get some questions from the audience. Years ago, Bill would always say he had various enemies he’d identify with, whether it was Google or blank blank. Who’s your enemy right now? Do you have one?

I don’t get up in the morning and think, “Who’s my enemy?” I do get up in the morning and think, “What’s our challenge?” And I think our fundamental challenge as an industry today is that we have gained such a level of impact and influence on a global basis, and we are trying to retain our global character, as the tech sector today, at a moment when almost all the pressures are towards nationalism, populism, unilateralism. And I think one of the great tests we will face over not the next year, but the next 10-15 years, is can we continue to be successful on a global basis, or are we going to see our industry fragment?

I think it is such a fundamental test of trust. What does it take to sustain trust around the world when people are not nearly as trusting as they used to be?

All right, on that note, questions from the audience? Ina Fried!

Ina Fried: Hey, Kara. Hey, Brad. Ina Fried with Axios. You mentioned the impact that the antitrust had. The work that you were doing at the time, people taking their eye off the ball, and search and mobile, I’m curious: What impact do you think it’s had more recently on the company too shy of putting things together? Did some of the ground it lost at Windows and Apple stem from the processes that came in place? So the later impact it had on the company ...

Well, it’s a really interesting question. When you look back today at what Windows was in the ’90s, or even what it is today, you think about what we designed, and we’re then in part forced to continue, because of antitrust regulations. We were forced to ensure that somebody else’s browser could be more popular on our own operating system. That’s called Chrome. That somebody else’s search engine could be more popular than our own search engine. On Windows that’s called Google and search. And then you look at Apple and it’s approach to iOS, or you look at Google and it’s approach to Android, and you just look at the general approach of how the app stores, and you see platforms that are much more curated.

Because the status quo was sort of established by regulation, for Windows, it has required a lot more work and a slower place and even a more measured approach just to get an app store really successful on Windows, the way we’re striving to do. So yeah, the reality is, once you make your bed and the regulators force you to lie in it, you may look across at the hotel across the street and say, “Wow, I wish we could design our rooms that way.” And you don’t necessarily have that opportunity.

Luther Lowe: Hi Brad, Luther Lowe from Yelp, and sorry to keep drilling on this particular point. But it’s been a very hot debate recently in nerdy antitrust conferences. It sounds like you’re suggesting that antitrust enforcement against big tech firms can have an oxygenating effect on the markets, and you implied that search could have potentially been an area where, for example, where Windows had 90 percent market share. Could have said, why don’t we create, let’s look at the back page algorithm. Throw some research money at that and make that the default search. Do you agree with that? That antitrust oxygenates the markets?

I would say two things that I think are interesting to think about in the world today. One is, look, I believe that antitrust continues to play an important role, and I’m not here to take a position on a case that we frankly settled a few years ago with our friends at Google. So just set that aside.

I think there’s a second dimension that is a potentially broad applicability or a potential impact for everybody. Antitrust cases basically are brought a case at a time against a company at a time. And then there are other issues that lead to broad sectoral regulation. Privacy, the general data protection regulation, or GDPR, is in effect a broad sectoral regulation of the entire economy, but with a particular impact on tech. If you look historically at where regulations emerged — especially, say, in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s — in the United States, the radio was regulated. Television was regulated. The one thing that has not been regulated is the internet.

And I think we’re starting to see, some companies that are more in the network business are for sectoral, over-the-top regulation. And so one should think about antitrust, but more and more these broad issues, these broad concerns that people have, we either address them and resolve their concerns or I think we’ll see rising pressure for more sweeping sectoral regulation in ways that will be very challenging for many more companies than an antitrust case will be.

All right, last question. Don?

Don Graham: Brad, Don Graham. You are one of maybe three, four people that you could call the co-captain of the team on the issue swirling around DACA. DACA and related issues. There still are attempts at action in Congress. There’s one going on right now, this week. You gave a good set of reasons for pessimism that anything will happen this year. But what should the people advocating your side of the issue be hoping for? Be optimistic for a moment: If a solution is going to be reached, what could that be? And how can the people in this audience that agree with you reach out to their members and their senators and push for something?

Great questions, Don. No. 1, there’s only one place where a solution can come, and that’s in Congress. Of course it will take Congress and the White House, ultimately, to do it together. No. 2, by definition, any solution will have to have something for both sides. So it’s got to offer protection for the Dreamers and it’s got to offer some element of reasonable border security, although I would hope that it would be border security that would not come at the expense of children and their legal rights.

But I think that there is the makings for a compromise, and there has been for months. The question is not whether there is a deal, it is whether there is the political will to embrace it. And I think that what we can all do is at least ensure that our voices are heard, to advocate for that kind of coming together.

And by definition, if you’re in California, it’s like, use your voice in California. But if you have relatives in Ohio or Pennsylvania or somewhere else, encourage them to use their voice as well. Because at the end of the day, I just feel like we’ve got to stop putting this political theater — well-chosen words — above the practical needs of so many real people who have never, in many instances, known any life in any country other than this one. It’s just a national and humanitarian tragedy if we fail to let this opportunity come forward in a way that protects them.

Good answer. If you have two seconds, we just have to bring on Linda.

Linda: Well, I’m one of the few Europeans here in the audience, I think. So my question is, you talked a lot about the responsibility. When are the tech industry and the U.S. going to pay tax in Europe?

I was in Brussels last Friday for the GDPR birthday.

That was fun, right?

Yeah. But let me say two things. People don’t decide what taxes they pay. Governments decide what taxes people pay.

Linda: I don’t agree with that, but.

Well, fair enough, but I don’t know too many people who get their tax bill and say, “Well, I’m going to pay three times what I owe because I love the government so much.” I don’t think you see that in the United States, and I don’t think you see that in other places. But, apropos your fundamental point, I do think the political winds are blowing from a different direction in Paris, say, if you listen to what President Macron had to say last week. You know, at Vivatech and around that, I think that we are likely to see new digital tax proposals. And I think that we may well see a day when we’ll see digital tax proposals adopted. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a worse world if companies pay a reasonable sum in the countries where they generate income.

There’s a huge amount of complexity to be sorted out on an international basis, but you know, when governments see companies generating large amounts of income in their countries but paying modest tax, it’s one of those things where it’s like, that’s a day when you got to look in the mirror and see yourself not the way you hope you look, but the way other governments see you instead.

Great, perfect. Thank you for that question. Brad, thank you.

Thank you. Thanks a lot.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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