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Former Google CEO: Social Networks Serving as 'Amplifiers for Idiots and Crazy People'

Eric Schmidt said regulation should be directed toward "the excesses in the social-networking space."

Then-executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company, Eric Schmidt speaks during a National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) conference November 5, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Then-executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company, Eric Schmidt speaks during a National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) conference November 5, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggested Wednesday that social networks are "amplifiers for idiots" and that the U.S. government's new antitrust lawsuit targeting the search engine giant is baseless.

Schmidt's remarks came during an interview at a technology conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal just a day after the Justice Department announced the landmark case.

No longer with Google—"I can say what I actually think," he said—Schmidt still holds over $5 billion in shares of Google's parent company, Alphabet. He's also chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, and his later tenure at Google saw heated criticism for the company's role in military initiatives. The New York Times described him earlier this year as having "reinvented himself as the prime liaison between Silicon Valley and the national security community."

The antitrust lawsuit, said Schmidt, was "largely driven by Republicans."

"It's bad public policy to use antitrust to regulate," Schmidt said, adding that "Google's market share is not 100%."

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He also brushed off "these dominance arguments," though Google controls roughly 90% of global web searches.

Social network platforms, said Schmidt, are deserving of regulatory scrutiny.

"The most obvious candidate for regulation are the excesses in the social-networking space," said Schmidt.

"The concept of social networks, broadly speaking, as amplifiers for idiots and crazy people is not what we intended," he said, adding, "Unless the industry gets its act together in a really clever way, there will be regulation."

The former executive's comments came amid growing questions about efforts social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter have made to promote or censor news stories and hate speech and to control misinformation.

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