Clapper: We Need Regulation for Social Media — ‘Something Akin’ to the FCC

Thursday on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper argued for more regulation of social media.

The embattled critic of President Donald Trump suggested an agency akin to the Federal Communications Commission could be suitable for such a regulatory role.

Partial transcript as follows:

HEWITT: I want to quote to you from your own book, Facts And Fears, on Page 81. “Seeing the stark reality of what Stasi did, East German intelligence service, stayed with me. This is what happened when a state surveillance apparatus ran amok with no limits and no checks. The East German experience tempered my attitude about collecting intelligence on innocent citizens in our country or elsewhere.” You also say about Angela Merkel, “I believe she never trusted her intelligence organization, hers or anyone else’s. She didn’t know and didn’t want to know what her intelligence agencies were doing.” That is the opposite of where you came to work. But I do worry, and I’ll come to Silicon Valley in a second, that we don’t have enough controls, Director Clapper.

CLAPPER: Well, you mentioned Silicon Valley. And here, I think that we may be in agreement. And I’ve specifically, speaking of the social media platforms…


CLAPPER: And I do, which right now actually have, you know, virtually no regulation, I believe, and I’ve said this publicly, that what we need for the social media platforms is something akin to the Federal Communications Commission, which was set up in the 1920s to regulate radio and later television. We have nothing comparable for the social media platforms. And as we’ve seen, they’d like to just regulate themselves. I believe they need oversight and regulation from the government.

HEWITT: I agree with you, and you recount in Facts And Fears the worst example. After the San Bernardino massacre, Apple would not cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And it was going to take it to the highest court until the FBI figured out how to crack the code on their own.


HEWITT: And that is a foreshadowing of what’s going to happen again and again unless we get that regulatory oversight.

CLAPPER: Well, Hugh, you raise a very good point, because I think right now, the country’s in a bad place with respect to you know, the absolutist positions the privacy advocates, notably Tim Cook of Apple, and he’s very eloquent about this, and of course, on the other side is the government. And increasingly, intelligence and law enforcement even more compellingly, I think, are in a dark, you know, going dark mode where the FBI has a large number of cell phones that are implicated in felony investigations, and they can’t read them, can’t open them, can’t open them up. So you know, we’ve, in our history, we’ve been pretty good about figuring out compromises. And here’s one case where we haven’t, yet, and we need to. I would make it, I’m a believer in some form of key encryption that, or key escrow where the key for encryption system would be split among three or more entities which would be, can be put in, and would have to be united in order to open a phone under an appropriate court order or some form of that. And I with those brilliant folks in Silicon Valley would put their heads and energy towards developing something like that.

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