Gates dealt with government pressure as Microsoft’s CEO in the 1990s when the US Department of Justice opened antitrust proceedings against the company. Microsoft avoided a forced separation but agreed to change its practices for years and paid billions in fines in other cartel cases based on the results of the DoJ case.
Now US regulators have their eye on Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, and the Microsoft case is a case to be learned from.
“Of course the exam is important,” Gates said during an interview on Thursday at the GeekWire summit on Thursday. “These companies shape communication, trade – and the politicians have to consider: ‘Okay, what are the rules there?’ I find it unfortunate that they group the companies together because there are so many different problems. ”
He named four that are specific to social media: promoting children, wiretapping, bullying, and spreading false information.
In e-commerce, regulators would have to decide whether a customer’s purchase history and delivery address should be shared on different websites.
“If you want to get serious you have to concentrate, list the topics and discuss them. So I would say we’re just starting, ”Gates told GeekWire Todd Bishop, a co-founder of GeekWire.
In addition, it’s important to follow Europe, which tends to be willing to try regulations before the US, Gates said. The European Commission previously initiated changes at Microsoft, and in July Slack, whose team communication app competes with Microsoft’s team app, filed a complaint against Microsoft against Microsoft over antitrust behavior with the European Commission.
China and South Korea have also launched antitrust proceedings against Microsoft. But Gates has said it was the US case that helped prevent Microsoft from becoming the largest maker of mobile operating systems outside of Apple, despite being a maker of Windows. Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board of directors in March and has since focused on responding to the coronavirus at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The only person richer than Gates today is Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Bishop asked Gates what advice he would give Bezos now that politicians are asking him questions.
“I think the main mistake I made, not knowing the importance of building relationships in Washington, is being involved there. These companies don’t make the same mistake that I made. You have a lot of people, ”said Gates. “Jeff even has a nice house in Washington, DC. They might even make some other mistakes. But everyone saw what I did and now knows better. ”
In the case of videotaped appearances during the antitrust proceedings, Gates appeared unwilling to answer questions directly, leading to greater criticism. Gates handed over the reins of CEO to Steve Ballmer in 2000 as antitrust proceedings were still ongoing, although he remained as chairman for many years thereafter.
“If you are proud of your work and its impact, this can be interpreted negatively,” said Gates on Thursday. “Amazon services were very helpful during the pandemic in getting things under control and they had to come up and that was a very good thing. So you are rightly proud of some of your work. ”
Gates said conversations should focus on how consumers can benefit from competition and how innovation can be encouraged.
It should be, he said, “a little less about demonizing the specific people involved. But maybe that’s my personal view that others don’t share. ”
SEE: CNBC’s in-depth interview with Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates about the coronavirus pandemic
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