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CNN Contributor Urges: Stop Calling Facebook a Tech Company


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An anonymous reader quotes a CNN opinion piece by Stanford business school lecturer David Dodson:
"Senator, we run ads." That's what Mark Zuckerberg told Senator Orrin Hatch earlier this year during his congressional testimony when asked to describe Facebook's business model. The 84-year-old senator was later mocked on social media for not understanding modern technology. But I'd argue that the wily senior senator understood Facebook's business quite well. Hatch was simply getting Mark Zuckerberg to say it out loud. Sometimes it takes an old guy to call out a youngster....

For media companies that run ads, especially ones that use public networks, we tell them that they can't lie or mislead, that it's not okay to advertise cigarettes to children or push prescription drugs without including the risks. We have laws governing deceptive advertisements and Truth in Advertising laws. Companies that run ads can't say a car gets 40 miles per gallon unless it's true. They can't say a movie won an Academy Award unless it did. If you say the wool comes from New Zealand, it must.... When nearly half of Americans get their news from Facebook, its newsfeed should be subjected to the same standards of fairness, decency and accuracy as newspapers, television and other media outlets....

Calling Facebook a tech company is how we got into so much trouble. It's also why, when Zuckerberg answered Hatch, the 34-year-old billionaire smiled in a way that was interpreted by many as smug. As if the senator was too antiquated to grasp the complexities of Facebook's revenue model. I see it differently. The company founder was offering a grin of acknowledgment. The jig was up. Facebook places ads just like most media companies do and should be held to the same overall standards.

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