Sales­force CEO lat­est to say so­cial me­dia could use more reg­u­la­tions

Be­nioff: ‘Tech­nol­ogy re­ally got out of con­trol’ in wake of 2016 elec­tion

The Mercury News - - Business + Technology - By Levi Su­ma­gaysay lsuma­gaysay@ ba­yare­anews­group.com

Facebook, Twit­ter and Google — which saw their plat­forms used for Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda dur­ing the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tions — are fac­ing in­creas­ing calls for tougher reg­u­la­tions.

The lat­est to join the cho­rus is a voice from the tech in­dus­try: out­spo­ken Sales­force CEO Marc Be­nioff, a pro­lific user of so­cial me­dia who has nearly 1 mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers.

“Do these com­pa­nies need more reg­u­la­tion? They prob­a­bly do,” Be­nioff said in a new pod­cast episode of CNN’s Boss Files with Poppy Har­low. He said the

“tech­nol­ogy re­ally got out of con­trol, that even didn’t know what was hap­pen­ing.”

The rev­e­la­tions about how so­cial net­works were ma­nip­u­lated sur­round­ing the elec­tions have

only re­cently come to light.

“We need to de­cide what kind of a so­ci­ety we’re gonna have go­ing for­ward,” Be­nioff said.

Be­nioff’s com­ments come on

the heels of re­cent con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony by Facebook, Twit­ter and Google on how their plat­forms were used for Rus­sian-backed bots, fake news and ads that ex­ploited cul­tural, po­lit­i­cal, racial and re­li­gious di­vi­sions among Amer­i­cans dur­ing the elec­tions.

Be­nioff isn’t the only tech CEO (who doesn’t head a so­cial me­dia com­pany) who has weighed in on the is­sue; Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook has railed against fake news, say­ing it’s “killing peo­ple’s minds.”

But Be­nioff’s re­sponse to whether fel­low tech com­pa­nies should be reg­u­lated is no­table.

When reached for com­ment Tues­day, a Sales­force spokes­woman said Be­nioff would not be avail­able for fur­ther com­ment.

Mean­while, Sen. Al Franken, D-Min­nesota, is call­ing for net neu­tral­ity rules to ap­ply to tech giants.

“As tech giants be­come a new kind of in­ter­net gate­keeper, I be­lieve the same ba­sic prin­ci­ples of net neu­tral­ity should ap­ply here: no one com­pany should have the power to pick and choose which con­tent reaches con­sumers and which doesn’t,” Franken wrote in an op-ed in the Guardian last week, in which he also ad­dressed the com­pa­nies’ size and dom­i­nance.

Franken re­peated some­thing he ad­dressed dur­ing the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing at­tended a cou­ple of weeks ago by the gen­eral coun­sels of Facebook, Twit­ter and Google as part of a look at Rus­sian med­dling in U.S. elec­tions.

“If you have 5 mil­lion ad­ver­tis­ers a month us­ing your highly so­phis­ti­cated, nearly in­stan­ta­neous ad plat­form, can you ever re­ally know who all of them are?” the sen­a­tor wrote.

In Oc­to­ber, a few sen­a­tors in­tro­duced the Hon­est Ads Act, which would re­quire tech com­pa­nies to be more trans­par­ent about online po­lit­i­cal ads.

For its part, Google last week asked the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion — ahead of a pub­lic-com­ment dead­line — to clar­ify guide­lines about online po­lit­i­cal ads, in­clud­ing con­sid­er­ing ban­ning for­eign en­ti­ties from buy­ing them. Facebook also said it sup­ported new rules that in­volve trans­parency, while Twit­ter re­port­edly said it wants to work with the FEC on the new rules.

Mon­day, 15 Demo­cratic sen­a­tors lent their sup­port to new FEC rules, too. Cur­rent FEC rules ap­ply mostly to print and broad­cast ads, but not ones that ap­pear online.

KRISTOPHER SKINNER — STAFF ARCHIVES

Marc Be­nioff, chair­man and CEO of Sales­force, ap­peared on the CNN “Boss Files” pod­cast Tues­day, ar­gu­ing for more reg­u­la­tions.

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