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Google, Facebook, and Twitter Won't Escape Their Fake News Problem

October 31, 2017 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated September 02, 2020 11:39 AM UTC

They all testified in front of Congress.

[THEME MUSIC] ROBERT HACKETT: Welcome to Fortune Tech Debate, where we debate the issues of the day in two minutes. Today, we're discussing the top tech giants, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, which are going before Congress to testify about Russian interference in the recent presidential election. Jeff, are these companies in trouble? JEFF JOHN ROBERTS: Is big tech in trouble? Judging by this week, it sure looks bad. They're on Capitol Hill getting grilled. Everyone's complaining about them. ROBERT HACKETT: I'd say so. The optics don't look good. JEFF JOHN ROBERTS: But here's your reality. Big tech is going to be fine. This is going to pass. And meanwhile, most of the American public actually likes these companies a lot. ROBERT HACKETT: Well, hold on. I disagree because I think the winds are shifting. We're seeing public sentiment begin to change. Anecdotally, I watched the hearing on Facebook. I watched the broadcast on Facebook Live. And all I was seeing when Facebook's general counsel was up there answering questions from legislators, was faces-- angry emoji faces and reactions flying across the screen, and crying faces, sad tears-- they were essentially getting booed on their own platform. JEFF JOHN ROBERTS: OK, that's not good, and that's actually kind of funny. Bu in reality, I think the media is sort of overstating the pushback against these companies. One thing the media's got an ax to grind. Because Facebook and Google have taken all of the advertising dollars from the traditional media. So media doesn't like them. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Yes. We'd have more money if Facebook and Google didn't exist. ROBERT HACKETT: True. JEFF JOHN ROBERTS: So that said-- ROBERT HACKETT: I still like you guys-- great platforms, great tech. JEFF JOHN ROBERTS: Yeah. Don't hurt us. But the reality is that most Americans-- actually they've done surveys-- have a very positive view of Google and even Facebook. Most Americans say-- hey, these are big free products, give us more. ROBERT HACKETT: Well, I think that actually what we're seeing now is they're coming up against regulation. And I think they're going to submit to it. I think we're going to see some changes in terms-- we're already seeing them make changes. They've added labels, they're starting to tell you where sources are coming from. They're hiring fact checkers internally and boosting their security engineering teams. We're seeing the changes happen. JEFF JOHN ROBERTS: No offense, Rob, I think you're being a bit naive. These companies are making window dressings. OK, fact checkers, tags here and there, I mean, the solution to this thing is some sort of antitrust thing to break them up and really fix them. That ain't going to happen. And there's no way they're going to accept regulation. You know why? Because they don't have to. They're making buckets of money and nothing right now is going to make them-- ROBERT HACKETT: I think they actually want to accept regulation. If they can get into a position to be a regulated sort of monopoly, kind of like AT&T was-- [INTERPOSING VOICES] JEFF JOHN ROBERTS: They have a monopoly right now. They have a monopoly. ROBERT HACKETT: --best position. JEFF JOHN ROBERTS: Right now they have a monopoly without the regulation. They've got the best of both worlds. ROBERT HACKETT: Well anyway, time is up. Come to for more Tech Debate. [THEME MUSIC]