Google, LinkedIn execs say tech companies need to address role in election outcome

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Following the U.S. election, tech giants must re-examine the "unintended consequences" of their platforms on society, big tech executives said.

"It is incumbent upon all of Silicon Valley — anyone responsible for technology that can reach beyond historically what was possible — to think about the unintended of what we're doing," said Jeff Weiner chief executive officer of LinkedIn, which is in the process of being acquired by Microsoft.

Those discussions were indeed happening behind closed doors at Alphabet's Google, Diane Greene, senior vice president for Google's Cloud businesses, said. The election highlighted just how divided the country was and has sparked a conversation about what Google can do to help repair it, said Greene.

Their comments came at the Code Enterprise conference in San Francisco on Tuesday night.

Re/code executive editor Kara Swisher pointed out in her on-stage interview that in the aftermath of the election, Facebook had been widely criticized for allowing fake news to spread on its site, and that CEO Mark Zuckerberg had refused to accept responsibility.

"Not everyone is capable of understanding the consequences of these things," Weiner noted. "We need to be really thoughtful about what we're going to do about it — as opposed to just rejecting ideas — that's not what we're trying to accomplish."

The rate of innovation was outpacing society's ability to keep up with the implications, but tech companies must acknowledge their role, he said.

The same was true on the jobs front, where technology was displacing entire workforces at an unexpectedly fast pace, both executives agreed.

Tech companies, often the beneficiaries of automation, must now play a role in helping people acquire new skills for the modern jobs market, they said.