Facebook and Google say they are merely distributing information, but because they are near-monopoly distributors, they’re more like public utilities and they should be subject to stricter regulations, billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros said in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The tech giants need to be regulated in the interest of preserving “competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access,” Soros said.
Soros believes regulation and taxation will soon break the monopolistic dominance of these companies, Bloomberg reported.
“Davos is a good place to announce that their days are numbered,” Soros said.
Among Soros’ many objections to Facebook and Google is that they’re addictive: “They deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide,” he said. “This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents.”
Soros compared the internet platforms to gambling companies, and said they may be permanently damaging human attention. Soros also said he’s extremely concerned that some social media and technology companies may fall into “unholy marriages” with regimes in Russia and China, creating a “web of totalitarian control.”
Soros wasn’t the only voice at Davos calling for social networks to be regulated.
The government should step in and regulate social networks just as it does tobacco, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said in a CNBC interview.
Facebook has been criticized by former employees and big names like Soros and Benioff as it struggles to control hate speech and foreign influence on its platform.
A Holocaust survivor and Hungarian refugee, Soros founded the global philanthropy network, the Open Society Foundations, which now hold the bulk of his fortune. He works to promote democracy and human rights, and opposes intolerance. He is a major donor to the Democratic Party and supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Soros spoke publicly in October 2017 about an $18 billion gift to his Open Society Foundations — one of the largest transfers of wealth ever made by a private donor to a single foundation, NY Times reported.
In September, Soros named Patrick Gaspard as the president of his global foundations, which are now in the No. 2 spot by assets among philanthropic organizations after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gaspard was a top aide to President Barack Obama, a national Democratic Party official and former U.S. ambassador to South Africa, according to a Moguldom report.
Soros said the “network effect” of the social media — where people are exposed to fake or biased news and cyber-bullying — is “unsustainable.” He predicted that Facebook will “run out of people to convert in less than three years,” Bloomberg reported.
Also at Davos, Soros had President Donald Trump in his crosshairs. He told Bloomberg News, “I consider the Trump administration a danger to the world … But I regard it as a purely temporary phenomenon that will disappear in 2020, or even sooner.”
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