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Ex-CIA Officer to Sputnik: It's Hard to Pin Down Tech Giants With Regulations

Political analyst and former CIA officer Jack Rice in an interview with Sputnik spoke about the need for more transparency in the internet realm with regards to political advertisements but highlighted why tech companies may want to avoid the regulations being proposed by new US legislation.

US senators such, as John McCain, have introduced legislation that obliges tech companies to disclose information on who purchases online political advertising. They believe that foreign actors take advantage of loopholes in US legislation to threaten the integrity of the US political system. Sputnik spoke with former CIA officer Jack Rice about this issue.

“What we are really talking about here is transparency and transparency in the sense of where the money is coming from. This was a spike that was taking place not just on the international scale but even domestically in the United States. When it came to those who were driving political ads, political decision making and just how much money was involved,” Rice said.

He further said that US Senator John McCain has a long history of raising this issue and some of the others, including Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner. They’re newer to this, but it is simply an extension of the issues of the internet realm and of the international realm.

However, according to Rice tech companies will want to avoid such regulations at any cost.

“It’s all about the money. There is a huge push back on the internet because there is huge money to be made and people don’t want to disclose anything. If they could avoid any regulation they would do so,” Rice said.

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He further explained why regulating tech companies might be harder than imagined, saying that it is “really, really hard to track the internet realm and what goes on in it.” 

“Inside the United States at least you can sort of track where things are going and how, but the problem with the internet is because it is not located in any one particular place it can bounce between…countries very quickly and it’s hard to track who is doing what and from which location they are actually doing it. That’s what makes it even harder but again in the end it’s all about the money,” the analyst said.

Talking about the main tech giants today, Rice said that there is pushback coming from Google, Facebook and Twitter in Europe right now and there is a question of just how much regulation can be put on them and how much they can actually be fined and forced to behave in a particular way. 

“But of course the problem when you get very large corporations, which are multinationals, is where are they actually based? They have major operations in the States or in Western Europe or in Southeast Asia and yet at the same time it’s hard to pin down who they are and where they are. That will really be the problem not just for the three senators right now but for anyone who will try to regulate the web,” Rice said.

The legislation proposed by the US senators comes on the heels of media reports that Russia-linked entities bought $100,000 worth of political advertisements on Facebook during the 2016 US presidential election, as well as purchasing advertisements on Twitter and Google in an attempt to influence the vote.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied meddling in other state's domestic affairs, calling the US allegations absurd and invented to deflect actual instances of election fraud and corruption as well as other pressing issues.

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