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At Detroit event, Facebook COO urges regulation — but not too much

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The rules for social media giants like Facebook should be overhauled, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer, said Tuesday. However, policymakers should be careful not to put American tech companies at a disadvantage compared to their foreign competitors.

Your comments came during a Detroit Economic Club forum about small business amid the pandemic. They also came months after the state of Michigan, the Federal Trade Commission, and several other states accused Facebook of violating antitrust laws by illegally buying their rivals in an attempt to stifle competition.

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“There are real concerns about the size and power of tech companies. We understand and really believe the laws need to be rewritten,” she said.

“At the same time, we hope people understand that a lot of the biggest tech companies in the world are American companies, and that means we exist under American law. That’s a pretty good place because some of our biggest competitors are in China and exist after.” Chinese law. I think it’s important that we find a way to continue American leadership of the tech industry. “

Sandberg was also asked about Facebook’s role in democracy after rampant misinformation on Facebook and other social media platforms helped fuel falsehoods in the 2020 presidential election.

“Elections, democracy, nothing could be more serious for all of us,” she said. “This was a challenging choice, we’ve never been so polarized and then we had a pandemic where people didn’t even know how to choose. It was the perfect storm.”

She said the organization “learned the lessons of protecting our democracy from outside interference” in the 2016 elections, but turned to the company’s efforts to help people register for voting. Facebook registered 4.5 million people, she said, an effort “the largest of its kind in the world”.

Facebook has come under fire since the 2016 presidential election when it became clear that Russian agents were influencing millions of Americans by distributing divisive content on the platform. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company won’t review political ads due to free speech concerns, but is considering changing how campaigns can reach different groups. The company also has a team dedicated to blocking fake accounts.

The company has urged the U.S. and foreign governments to regulate their industries by adding requirements related to malicious content, voting, privacy, and data. However, critics have found that the company already largely meets the requirements they have asked for.

The Detroit Economic Club event focused on how small businesses are using the platform to weather a pandemic that has decimated communities over the past year.

Female-owned companies have closed faster than male-owned companies under the economic pressures of the public health crisis, Sandberg said, largely due to demand for childcare and housework.

“It’s a health crisis, it’s an economic crisis, and it’s a crisis for women,” she said. “This gender gap is widening.”

She said she spoke to nine Detroit business owners Tuesday morning who used Facebook to reach customers while in-person shopping has been restricted, and said the company will be working with the Michigan Small Business Association to provide a “boost.” “Implement program provides free business tools and promotional products for small businesses.

“We know that small businesses are at the heart of their communities,” she said. “When small businesses are hit, communities are hit.”

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Twitter: @rbeggin

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Dusty Kennedy