Salesforce CEO latest to say social media could use more regulations
Benioff: ‘Technology really got out of control’ in wake of 2016 election
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.
Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, appeared on the CNN “Boss Files” podcast Tuesday, arguing for more regulations.