Facebook and other addictive tech products should be regulated like tobacco, says Salesforce CEO

Government regulation is coming to the tech industry, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff predicted

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Wednesday 24 January 2018 22:34 GMT
Salesforce CEO Marc Beinoff says Facebook should be regulated like Big Tobacco was

Facebook and other addictive technology products should be regulated like cigarettes, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr Benioff said the tech industry was facing a reckoning that he predicted would soon bring the types of regulations that govern sectors like food and financial services.

And given the way sites like Facebook command peoples’ attention and keep them coming back for more, he said, America’s approach to tobacco products could be a model.

“I think you’d do it exactly the same way you regulated the cigarette industry: here’s a product, cigarettes, they’re addictive, they’re not good for you, maybe there’s all kinds of forces trying to get you to do certain things. There’s a lot of parallels,” said Mr Benioff, whose company is a leading cloud computing firm and whose namesake tower is San Francisco's tallest building.

“For sure technology has addictive qualities that we have to address”.

While it’s unlikely the government will adopt Mr Benioff’s tobacco-like approach, American elected officials have echoed his suggestion that “the government is going to have to be involved” in regulating the tech sector.

Members of Congress have developed an appetite for regulating the technology industry after revelations that Russian-directed actors used major online platforms to influence and disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

Congress summoned tech executives to Capitol Hill last year and grilled them about how they allowed foreign influence to flow through their sites. Bipartisan legislation would require online ads to be regulated like other political spending. Facebook and Twitter have announced their own efforts to release more information on paid political content.

A new paper whose authors include a former Facebook executive argues that the technology industry empowers “disinformation operators” to exploit advertising and marketing tools. It proposed policymakers take a closer look at consumer privacy rules while warning of “censorship-based approaches” that could impinge on free speech.

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