The 'wild, wild West days of Big Tech' are over, says Sen. Mark Warner

Key Points
  • Silicon Valley's tech giants have "enormous power" and need to be regulated, says Sen. Mark Warner.
  • However, he doesn't advocate breaking them up.
  • He says he hopes to have "rules of the road" in place before the 2020 election.
Sen. Mark Warner on the future of work

Silicon Valley's tech giants have "enormous power" and need to be regulated, Sen. Mark Warner told CNBC on Wednesday.

"We need to put some, in a sense, rules of the road in place and not with a heavy hand," the Democrat from Virginia said on "Closing Bell."

"There are ways we can even look at industry-based standards and industry-based regulatory bodies as the first step," he said. "But the wild, wild West days of Big Tech, I think, are over — both from a consumer standpoint and from both political parties."

The tech giants have come under fire on numerous fronts, accused of being too big, lacking transparency and other criticisms.

On Wednesday, Facebook's stock dipped on a Wall Street Journal report that the company discovered emails that seem to connect CEO Mark Zuckerberg to its controversial privacy issues.

The social media giant has also come under recent scrutiny for leaving up a doctored video that appeared to show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stumbling in her speech.

However, while there have been calls from some to break up the industry titans, Warner said that could give Chinese companies the upper hand in the competitive industry.

"As global companies, I don't want Facebook [and] Google replaced with Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent … Chinese companies that offer similar services without any constraints," said Warner, vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. He began studying Facebook as part of the committee's investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

Instead, he sees regulation addressing four key issues: privacy, identity validation, content and the lack of transparency at the companies.

And he hopes it gets done for the midterm elections in 2020, he said, so there is no repeat of 2016, when Russians were able to post fake content in an attempt to sway the vote.

"If we don't get our act together before the next election, shame on us," he said. "We need to make sure that we put in place some guardrails around social media to protect our election in 2020."

The Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday said Facebook employees are concerned the emails could come under scrutiny during an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission on potential security lapses related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Facebook, responding to the Journal's report, said the company has "fully cooperated" with the FTC investigation and is "continuing to work with them and hope[s] to bring this matter to an appropriate resolution."

"Facebook and its executives, including Mark, at all times strive to comply with all applicable law, and at no point did Mark or any other Facebook employee knowingly violate the company's obligations under the FTC consent order," a Facebook spokesperson said.