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A year after U.S. presidential election, tech giants face growing calls for regulation

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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: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

“Do these companies need more regulation? They probably do,” Benioff said in a new podcast episode of CNN’s Boss Files with Poppy Harlow. “We need to decide what kind of a society we’re gonna have going forward.”

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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 fake news and ads that exploited cultural, political, racial and religious divisions among Americans during the elections.

The companies in recent months have introduced measures meant to show they are tackling the problem, including by releasing more information about online political ads.

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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. “And Facebook, Google, and Amazon – like ISPs – should be ‘neutral’ in their treatment of the flow of lawful information and commerce on their platforms.”

Franken also repeated something he addressed during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing attended by the general counsels of Facebook, Twitter and Google as part of a look at Russian meddling in U.S. elections.

“If you have five 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.

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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.

Photos from AP

Tags: ads, advertisements, Al Franken, elections, facebook, fake news, FEC, Google, marc benioff, russia, twitter

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