Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros called Google and Facebook monopolies in need of regulation, in a blistering speech that added his voice to a chorus calling for major technology firms to be reined in.
In remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr Soros called the companies a “menace” and assailed the rise of “ever more powerful monopolies”.
He said “more stringent regulations” were necessary and predicted that their “global dominance” would be “broken”.
“They claim they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation and fair and open universal access,” Mr Soros said. He added that governments would need to step in because tech monopolies have “neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions”.
He also warned that tech titans could effectively ally themselves with authoritarian regimes in an effort to breach new markets, expanding surveillance and establishing “a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell could have imagined”. A reference to two authors whose books offered dystopian visions of societies that exert total control over their citizens.
“The dictatorial leaders in these countries may be only too happy to collaborate with them since they want to improve their methods of control over their own populations and expand their power and influence in the United States and the rest of the world,” Mr Soros said.
Similar calls for tougher regulation of the technology industry have been issued from both elected officials and the private sector.
Members of Congress have discarded a hands-off approach amid investigations of Russian influence operations exploiting leading tech platforms, calling for tougher rules in areas like disclosure of paid political speech.
Earlier this week, CEO Marc Benioff of Salesforce — a major cloud computing firm — said Facebook should be regulated like tobacco firms given its addictive qualities.
Similarly, Mr Soros cautioned that Facebook and Google purposefully “engineer addiction to the services they provide”, which he described as especially harmful for adolescents and he added that they “deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes”.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies