Sen. Warner Weighs In On Cybersecurity, Musks Twitter and the Dangers of Killer Robots

Mark Warner has plenty of experience with CES: he was aboard the tech train before becoming governor of Virginia in 2002. During his time at Columbia Capital, Mark was involved in the emerging mobile industry, including lending support to Nextel.

The CTA welcomed Warner back after years away to join a panel alongside Senators Jacky Rosen (NV) and Ben Ray Luján (NM). This was part of an initiative to bring lawmakers to CES as tech becomes increasingly central in our lives and the policies that govern them.

Warner, fittingly, has made tech a cornerstone of his work in the Senate. He’s championed social media accountability and leads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Additionally, he was a key supporter of the CHIPS Act to counter China’s technological advancement.

We interviewed the senator in a Las Vegas Convention Center meeting room to discuss tech-related issues such as cybersecurity, TikTok/Huawei, Elon Musk’s Twitter activity and the emergence of killer robots.

This week, all eyes were on Kevin McCarthy’s journey to becoming House Speaker – an effort that included repeatedly stepping on rakes. He eventually won the 15th vote after a six-hour period.

This interview has been pared down for conciseness and clarity.

At CES this week, I’m exploring the future of tech to create legislation that’s ready for tomorrow.

Tried Magic Leap’s glasses to find out when we’d have a Speaker, but turns out they weren’t the answer. #NoCrystalBall pic.twitter.com/bfal1fVMwP

It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m proud to say that I’ve reached my goal of becoming a senator by 2023. Let’s keep fighting for progress! #Election2023

I’m thrilled to have achieved my goal of becoming a Senator

What is your opinion on McCarthyism?

I’m familiar with him from my work as part of the Gang of Eight, and our interactions have been pleasant. However, his concessionary approach has taken me aback; I expected more push back from moderates. How he’ll resolve this is beyond me.

By the 10th or 11th vote, it’s time to start making concessions.

Many are critical of Pelosi, yet no one foresaw the current situation unfolding.

Many people are doing this.

It’s like they were looking to get noticed.

It was a symbolic statement: the two-year anniversary of January 6, and they arrived at 10 p.m., as if seeking attention.

What inspired you to pursue a career in politics?

I was initially drawn to politics and, after graduating college with no money, fundraised for the Democratic National Committee and Jimmy Carter’s campaign. I remember someone who lost a race and racked up $300K in debt – something I could never fathom. This sparked my desire to get a financial base before pursuing any political career aspirations. Unfortunately, two businesses failed but the third attempt at cell phones proved lucky – being in the right place at the right time!

Given the large role technology plays in virtually all legislation, how can we ensure that leaders and government officials are better informed of tech?

Who dominates 5G and 6G? Who has the chip-making capacity, which is why we’re having this conflict about Huawei.

People are trying; technology issues don’t have a liberal-conservative divide – it’s more future vs past than left vs right. This makes it easier to form coalitions; for example in the case of Huawei & semi-conductor tech, national security is at stake. If there’s conflict with China, who controls satellites & power will be important, as well as dominance of 5G/6G and chip making capability – hence current tensions surrounding Huawei.

With 100 million kids on it, China’s Communist Party-operated TikTok has raised bipartisan concerns about national security. As such, members of both parties are now more open to learning and focusing on tech issues. This is an evolution that we must continue to monitor closely.

I thought that when Trump left office, Huawei would be off the entity list and other issues would be reversed — but it seems those things have stayed put.

Huawei posed a threat to national security and scared me, as someone who has worked with wireless technology. Growing up in a world of Motorola, AT&T, Nortel, Erickson and Nokia had made it easy to see how quickly North American companies have disappeared. What’s more concerning is that Huawei now sets the rules for international telecommunications union standards-setting bodies which used to be controlled by us; they’ve flooded the market without any alternatives.

That’s not just a word, it means something.

Infrastructure isn’t just a word—it carries meaning.

Huawei is a cost-effective, comprehensive solution; however, companies in Europe who have adopted it are now taking steps to replace it. This demonstrates that the understanding of the security risks Chinese companies pose has extended beyond just America.

Should we discuss enacting legislation to regulate police and weaponized robots?

I haven’t given it enough thought, but using tech without safeguards is a mistake. We should be mindful to not blindly embrace the mantra of “innovate and break things.”

Act swiftly, innovate.

The emergence of tech and AI has caused some serious issues. I’ve argued for our involvement in worldwide standard-setting bodies to ensure transparency and privacy protection. Without people involved in decision making, we’re entering dangerous territory – legislation must be put in place as a safeguard before it’s too late. Unfortunately, we’re not great at this: despite the lack of action on social media regulation, it still astounds me that nothing has been done yet.

I wanted to discuss the recent Twitter news.

He’s changing the world in amazing ways, like making space travel possible for average people.

I’m a huge fan of Elon Musk, especially his work with SpaceX; he’s revolutionizing the world by making space exploration accessible to everyone!

I work hard to create products that will make people’s lives easier.

I strive to innovate technology that simplifies lives.

Is there a concern he will use this as an opportunity to advocate for his beliefs?

I’m alarmed that Twitter has suddenly imposed a ban on negative comments about the Chinese Communist Party.

Prior to Musk’s purchase of Twitter, a debate raged on regarding “free speech” and its implications for a platform owned by the private sector. Now that it is under his ownership, he has complete control over it.

I support free speech, but I believe Section 230 should be subject to certain restrictions; this view may differ from that of many in the tech industry. We shouldn’t have a right for our voices to be amplified billions of times without consequence.

Should the FTG+ take a more proactive stance on acquisitions and potential monopolies?

There is debate over whether more regulations are needed or if just stricter reviews would suffice. I believe some of the transactions should have been blocked, which would have had positive long-term results. Regarding tech companies as virtual utilities, I’m not an expert on antitrust laws but my opinion is that consumer prices should be taken into account.

Capitalistic incentives.

People say “Facebook is free; Google’s free,” but how do we measure price? It may not be technically ‘free,’ yet monetizing our data isn’t morally wrong.

That is a good point.

Agreed!

I’m softer than that, but folks should recognize its worth.

They should be aware of the data they’re sharing.

It’s unbelievable that the US has yet to enact a data privacy law!

Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch
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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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