NEW DELHI: Internet companies like Google and Facebook are shying away from calling themselves media firms, but they should take the onus of the content on their platforms, said Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, the world’s largest advertising group. “I don’t believe these companies, and particularly Google and Facebook, are technology companies,” Sorrell told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday. “They are media companies and they still take the position publicly that they are technology companies and that is wrong.”
To back his argument, Sorrell said Facebook has hired 4,000 employees to monitor its editorial content. Social media companies should take the responsibility of their contents, he told the journalists, “like you are responsible, and the people who own your channels, your newspapers, magazines, your digital channels are held responsible in many countries legally for the content and the accuracy of the content that you print or propagate or publish.”
Sorrell, who is in the Indian capital to attend a WPP board meeting, said: “I believe these technology companies have to take responsibility of their contents … contents appearing on extremist sites or whatever happens to be, whether it is about consumer brands, safety, about transparency, about fraud, about bots, about fake news, all these issues. These technology companies have to step up to the fact they are media companies. Admit it and get on with it and be responsible with it.”
Referring to the suggestion of former White House aide Steve Bannon that Facebook and Google should be regulated as public utilities, Sorrell said: “I am not suggesting they should be, but the growth and developments of these companies created big questions about advocacy and social media and they have immense power.”
Google and Facebook didn’t immediately respond to ET’s emails seeking views on Sorrell’s comment. Sorrell said he was bullish about the Indian economy and that the GST switchover pangs and demonitisation were temporary hiccups. “I remain an Indian bull and not an Indian bear. Has GST or demonitisation posed issues or problems, I guess the answer is yes. People point to the administrative burden of both and the disruption that it has caused,” he said. “But naturally, when you have legislative change which brings about significant social change, you are going to get disruption. That is short-term pain for long-term gains.” He lauded India’s growth rate and said it was still among the fastest growing economies.
“If you ask me to characterise what the world is like beyond India, it is not growing at 6% or 5.7%. People would give their eye, teeth, they (would) cut off their limbs to grow at that sort of rate,” he said. “The world is growing at about 3-4%. The UK would be lucky if it grows at a couple of percents. In the US, President Trump would like to see the growth at 4%.”
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