Salesforce CEO says Facebook should be regulated like cigarettes

Posted Jan 26, 2018 by James Walker
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has called for Facebook and other social networks to be regulated. He likened the addictive nature of social media to the cigarette industry, saying there are "a lot of parallels" between the two.
Marc Benioff  CEO of Salesforce
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce
Benioff made the comments in a discussion with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He called for social media companies to face more stringent regulation designed to better protect users against the dangers. The harmful elements of platforms such as Facebook mean they shouldn't be left to their own devices any longer.
"I think that you do it [regulation] exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry," Benioff said to CNBC. "Here's a product: Cigarettes. They're addictive, they're not good for you. I think that for sure, technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and that product designers are working to make those products more addictive and we need to rein that back."
Benioff's comments follow other recent criticisms of social media voiced by governments and tech CEOs. This month, Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted he keeps his nephew off social media. In December, Cook publicly attacked social platforms for helping to "divide" people. Sean Parker, Facebook's first President, has admitted social media was deliberately designed to "exploit a vulnerability in human psychology."
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The controversy around the major platforms has escalated over the past year, supported by concerns about fake news and other inauthentic content. Facebook has announced major changes in response, including a decision to refocus the News Feed around individuals and personal posts. It appears to be trying to regain trust amid criticism from governments, tech firms and its users.
According to Benioff, social media companies shouldn't be relied upon to reinvent themselves as more responsible platforms. He said official regulation may need to be created for Internet companies, noting "we're the same as any other industry." Benioff is known as one of few Silicon Valley execs to support greater industry regulation by the government.
The debate around social media is likely to continue over the next year as Facebook rolls out its algorithm changes and more users begin to question of authenticity of online content. Although some governments are calling for greater regulation too, it's currently unclear what rules would be imposed on Internet companies if new legislation was introduced. For the time being, it seems social media firms will be left to regulate themselves, with users having to make their own decisions on how they consume digital content.