WPP’s chief executive and founder Martin Sorrell said on Tuesday that Google and Facebook wield tremendous power and influence and, like any other media company in the world, should be held legally accountable for the content on their platforms.
Sorrell, who was in the capital for the British advertising and public relations company’s board meeting, said legislation has failed to catch up with technological change. For instance, the control on traditional media is much more rigorous than a blog on Facebook. “They take position publicly that they are tech companies,” said Sorrell. “But they are not. Technology companies have to step up to the fact that they are media companies, admit it, get on with it and be responsible.
The 72-year-old, who is largely credited for the extensive consolidation within the global communications industry — with WPP becoming one of the world’s largest advertising and marketing companies with revenues of $19 billion — said Facebook has hired around 4,000 people to monitor its editorial content. “They have started acknowledging the fact that algorithms need to be controlled by humans,” Sorrell said. “This is a really serious issue.” While addressing concerns surrounding social media such as fake news, Sorrel spoke about its growing importance in areas of advocacy.
“The concern is that in elections, social media may have been surreptitiously used in many ways, including deploying ads emanating from Russia. Social media played a very important role not only in the US elections but in the British general election, the Brexit and also in the German election — where the far right did exceptionally well.”
To give an example on how social media could be effectively used by the government, Sorrell said, “If there are administrative issues with GST, we see social media as a second channel to influence not only centennials and millennials but the whole population.”
“People in governments and political parties are intrigued with the effectiveness of advocacy social media. If I had been in the government or a political party, I would be keen to see how social media, mobile and online could help me build awareness and deploy government policies.”
“If somebody had asked me, which is going to be first trillion-dollar company on the planet, I will bet on Amazon,” Sorrell said. “Although currently, its revenues are small ($2.5 billion) compared with Google ($90-100 billion) and Facebook ($35 billion), Amazon is going to become a very significant advertising platform in the future with 55% of product searches in America emanating from it.”