Congressman Ro Khanna Sees Silicon Valley Playing Pivotal Role in 2020 Elections

“I completely oppose any effort to terminate the DACA program,” he
said. “Congress should act to put it on firmer footing.”

California Congressman Ro Khanna, D-Fremont, attended a rally for worker rights in the U.S. Capitol building in July. Khanna, in a teleconference with ethnic media journalists on Tuesday, Nov. 12, said he supports efforts to reclassify “gig economy” workers, protect DACA and encourage social media platforms to step up efforts to ensure the reliability of news and advertising presented on their sites

California Congressman Ro Khanna, D-Fremont, attended a rally for worker rights in the U.S. Capitol building in July. Khanna, in a teleconference with ethnic media journalists on Tuesday, Nov. 12, said he supports efforts to reclassify “gig economy” workers, protect DACA and encourage social media platforms to step up efforts to ensure the reliability of news and advertising presented on their sites

Speaking with the ethnic press, Congressman Ro Khanna
called for Silicon Valley social media entrepreneurs to increase their
vigilance against the spread of misinformation — “fake news” — and
discussed issues in health care, housing, immigration and data privacy
as well.

Khanna, D-Fremont, represents California’s 17 th District, in the heart of
the Silicon Valley high-tech hub. He spoke and took questions in a brief
call on Tuesday, Nov. 17, moderated by Vandana Kumar of India
Currents, co-organizer of the event with Ethnic Media Services.

Addressing the presence of “fake news” in social media, he urged that
social media platforms develop systems to remove blatantly false news,
perhaps in the same way that copyright violations are dealt with.

“Social media companies,” he said, “need to do a better job of policing
themselves, show their sense of responsibility.” Khanna allowed that
social media is not alone, that broadcasters and public figures also have
compromised public trust.

His main concern, he said, is that social media makes it so easy for any
news, whether truthful or not, to go viral in no time. So it’s essential
that we figure out how to safeguard its accuracy.

He suggested that an independent, de-politicized agency could lay out
the standards for what counts as blatantly false news while still
preserving First Amendment rights of free speech.

“If they can remove copyright violations, then why can’t they erase
speech that is patently false?

“Even if we don’t succeed in passing legislation,” he said, “I am trying to
get these tech companies to do the right thing. … Blatant falsity,
disregard for truth, has never been allowed. It doesn’t rise to the level of
First Amendment protection.”

Khanna said he is working with fellow California Congressman Kevin
McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, on a bipartisan bill to ensure that social
media platforms filter out the interference of agents propagating false
information.

Asked about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s seeming lack of
concern about the accuracy of information on his website during a
recent appearance before Congress, Khanna reiterated his support for
greater regulation of false speech and ads, along with the host
companies themselves taking more initiative, perhaps in collaboration
with one another to “monitor bad actors and remove them.”

As for data privacy issues, Khanna voiced support for an Internet Bill
of rights to protect the consumers’ data by making sure consumers
know how their data was being used online and have the opportunity to
allow it or not. The cost of making it a little bit harder for digital
platforms to collect massive amounts of data, he said, is worthwhile if it
protects the privacy of people in a democracy.

“No one is saying we ought to curtail social media. We need to have the
regulations catch up with the pace of technical change.”

Regarding health care concerns, Khanna spoke in favor of staying the
course with the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) for basic care and
letting states take federal funding for health care and put it toward a
single-payer system.

Khanna repeatedly expressed support for a “Medicare for All” system
that would free workers from relying on their employer for health care
and also lower companies’ health insurance costs. Taxing them to fund
the program would cost less than what they now pay for insurance, he
said.

He touched on the need for more federal investment in affordable
housing tax credits to boost construction and advocated also for adding
more temporary shelters — with services attached — to help people out
of homelessness.

“Housing is one of the biggest challenges,” he said in response to a
reporter’s question. He lauded investments by Apple and Google in
housing construction, expressed support for “intervention programs”
that help people struggling to meet their rent and mortgage obligations
and, in a general sense, also endorsed “housing first” policy approaches
to tackling homelessness.

The congressman was queried about the Trump administration’s efforts
to end the DACA program, which were under review in the Supreme
Court in Washington, D.C., even as he spoke.

“I completely oppose any effort to terminate the DACA program,” he
said. “Congress should act to put it on firmer footing.”

He also expressed support for California’s Assembly Bill 5 effort to
redefine the employment terms of “gig economy” workers, such as those
who drive for Lyft and Uber into alignment with the standards of
traditional employees.

“People should be treated as employees if they’re driving an Uber or
Lyft … getting benefits and having rights as employees,” Khanna said.

He made no mention of exceptions in the legislation, such as for some —

but not all —  newspaper carriers, but argued that, when so many look to
employers for health care coverage, Medicare for All would help defuse
some of the arguments over what it means to be employed.

Overall, Khanna acknowledged the important role of Silicon Valley in
the upcoming elections, emphasizing how important it will be to prevent
false news on social media to avoid the debacles of 2016.

Speaking with the ethnic press this week, Congressman Ro Khanna
called for Silicon Valley social media entrepreneurs to increase their
vigilance against the spread of misinformation — “fake news” — and
discussed issues in health care, housing, immigration and data privacy
as well.

Khanna, D-Fremont, represents California’s 17 th District, in the heart of
the Silicon Valley high-tech hub. He spoke and took questions in a brief
call on Tuesday, Nov. 17, moderated by Vandana Kumar of India
Currents, co-organizer of the event with Ethnic Media Services.

Addressing the presence of “fake news” in social media, he urged that
social media platforms develop systems to remove blatantly false news,
perhaps in the same way that copyright violations are dealt with.

“Social media companies,” he said, “need to do a better job of policing
themselves, show their sense of responsibility.” Khanna allowed that
social media is not alone, that broadcasters and public figures also have
compromised public trust.

His main concern, he said, is that social media makes it so easy for any
news, whether truthful or not, to go viral in no time. So it’s essential
that we figure out how to safeguard its accuracy.

He suggested that an independent, de-politicized agency could lay out
the standards for what counts as blatantly false news while still
preserving First Amendment rights of free speech.

“If they can remove copyright violations, then why can’t they erase
speech that is patently false?

“Even if we don’t succeed in passing legislation,” he said, “I am trying to
get these tech companies to do the right thing. … Blatant falsity,
disregard for truth, has never been allowed. It doesn’t rise to the level of
First Amendment protection.”

Khanna said he is working with fellow California Congressman Kevin
McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, on a bipartisan bill to ensure that social
media platforms filter out the interference of agents propagating false
information.

Asked about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s seeming lack of
concern about the accuracy of information on his website during a
recent appearance before Congress, Khanna reiterated his support for
greater regulation of false speech and ads, along with the host
companies themselves taking more initiative, perhaps in collaboration
with one another to “monitor bad actors and remove them.”

As for data privacy issues, Khanna voiced support for an Internet Bill
of rights to protect the consumers’ data by making sure consumers
know how their data was being used online and have the opportunity to
allow it or not. The cost of making it a little bit harder for digital
platforms to collect massive amounts of data, he said, is worthwhile if it
protects the privacy of people in a democracy.

“No one is saying we ought to curtail social media. We need to have the
regulations catch up with the pace of technical change.”

Regarding health care concerns, Khanna spoke in favor of staying the
course with the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) for basic care and
letting states take federal funding for health care and put it toward a
single-payer system.

Khanna repeatedly expressed support for a “Medicare for All” system
that would free workers from relying on their employer for health care
and also lower companies’ health insurance costs. Taxing them to fund
the program would cost less than what they now pay for insurance, he
said.

He touched on the need for more federal investment in affordable
housing tax credits to boost construction and advocated also for adding
more temporary shelters — with services attached — to help people out
of homelessness.

“Housing is one of the biggest challenges,” he said in response to a
reporter’s question. He lauded investments by Apple and Google in
housing construction, expressed support for “intervention programs”
that help people struggling to meet their rent and mortgage obligations
and, in a general sense, also endorsed “housing first” policy approaches
to tackling homelessness.

The congressman was queried about the Trump administration’s efforts
to end the DACA program, which were under review in the Supreme
Court in Washington, D.C., even as he spoke.

“I completely oppose any effort to terminate the DACA program,” he
said. “Congress should act to put it on firmer footing.”

He also expressed support for California’s Assembly Bill 5 effort to
redefine the employment terms of “gig economy” workers, such as those
who drive for Lyft and Uber into alignment with the standards of
traditional employees.

“People should be treated as employees if they’re driving an Uber or
Lyft … getting benefits and having rights as employees,” Khanna said.

He made no mention of exceptions in the legislation, such as for some —

but not all —  newspaper carriers, but argued that, when so many look to
employers for health care coverage, Medicare for All would help defuse
some of the arguments over what it means to be employed.

Overall, Khanna acknowledged the important role of Silicon Valley in
the upcoming elections, emphasizing how important it will be to prevent
false news on social media to avoid the debacles of 2016.

Nida Qasim Khan is a reporter for Ethnic Media Services. She is a linguist who specializes in South Asian languages.

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