Congressman Ro Khanna on 2020 elections, role of social media in politics and gig economy

Rep. Ro Khanna

Indian American lawmaker Ro Khanna talks to ethnic media about everything from healthcare reforms to ensuring fair elections.

Indian American Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna from California’s 17th Congressional district represents one of the most diverse districts in the U.S. He is also the campaign co-chair for 2020 Democratic Presidential aspirant and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Khanna has been very vocal about President Donald Trump’s immigration policy and passionately believes in healthcare reforms as well as the need to ensure fair and free elections in 2020.

In a teleconference with members of various ethnic media in the U.S. on Tuesday, the Silicon Valley Congressman covered everything from gig economy to role of Silicon Valley in the 2020 elections.

The briefing was organized by ethnic publication India Currents in partnership with Ethnic Media Services.

Khanna talked at length about whether immigrants are more vulnerable to tech companies having access to a lot of personal data, particularly as some may not have language access and if the data could be used for political targeting.

Stressing that it’s the major responsibility of social media giants to be more vigilant on social media, Khanna said he is working on a bill that would allow social media agencies to remove bad actors.

While political advertising can’t be banned totally, one has to look at a solution to remove falsities, he said. “We need to regulate political advertising.”

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“There is a need of a regulatory body that looks into these advertisements and more importantly notifies if there is false political advertising.”

The Congressman was of the firm view that social media companies should shoulder the responsibility to prevent viral false news, particularly at a time when the tone of politics in the country has become very hostile and uncivil.

Khanna’s tele briefing also coincided with oral arguments in the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA rulings.

The purpose of Obama era DACA immigration policy is to provide temporary protection from deportation to eligible immigrant youth who came to the U.S. when they were children.

Referring to Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA which could render 700,000 DACA beneficiaries jobless and out of status, Khanna called the situation very concerning.

“I completely oppose these efforts to end DACA,” he said. “I think Congress should act on it. Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi has been trying to have the DACA recipients protected.”

“It is xenophobia to deny [DACA beneficiaries] them citizenship. They deserve basic dignity,” Khanna said.

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“It is very disenchanting to take away their sense of belongingness. It is doing enormous damage at a time when we are trying to stitch the country together.”

Talking about affordable housing in Silicon Valley Khanna said that apart from federal investment for the same there is also a need for better rent and mortgage programs.

On what is currently the most urgent topic in the Congress, Khanna said that healthcare remains one of the primary concerns in the Congress right now.

On the recurring concerns about the usage of personal data by companies, the Congressman talked about proposing a bill that would require consent of an individual before their data is collected.

“While it would limit the collection of data, it is a worthwhile trade-off for protecting democracy,” he said.

On gig economy, Khanna expressed support for California Assembly Bill 5 or AB 5 — a California law that limits the use of classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees by companies in the state.

“I support AB 5 California’s efforts,” he said. “I believe people who operate Uber, Lyft etc. should be treated as employees. They should be getting benefits and treated as employees.”

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