George Soros slams Facebook and Google as a 'menace'

In a speech at the World Economic Forum, the billionaire investor calls for "more stringent regulations" on the tech giants.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
2 min read
Billionaire investor George Soros

Billionaire investor George Soros calls for greater regulation on tech companies such as Google and Facebook.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Renowned financier and philanthropist George Soros bashed Facebook and Google on Thursday and called for "more stringent regulations" on the tech giants.

During a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the billionaire investor said the tech companies were a "menace," adding that it's "only a matter of time before the global dominance of the US IT monopolies is broken," according to a transcript of the event.

"As Facebook and Google have grown into ever more powerful monopolies, they have become obstacles to innovation, and they have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware," he said.

"They claim they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access," he said in his speech, which was first reported by BuzzFeed.

The comments come amid a backdrop of criticism that Silicon Valley should be held accountable for influence Russia was able to wield using their respective platforms during the 2016 US presidential election.

Facebook has said about 126 million Americans, or roughly one-third of the nation's population, were exposed to Russian-backed content on Facebook during the election. Russian operatives also spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on YouTube, Gmail and Google search.

Soros also accused the tech companies of being tempted to "compromise themselves" to enter the Chinese market, where they have long been banned.

"There could be an alliance between authoritarian states and these large, data-rich IT monopolies that would bring together nascent systems of corporate surveillance with an already developed system of state-sponsored surveillance," Soros said. "This may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell could have imagined."

Facebook declined to comment. Google representatives didn't respond to a request for comment.

Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about "women in tech."

Special Reports: All of CNET's most in-depth features in one easy spot.