China's Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma speaks during the launching of the country's Digital-Free Trade Zone in Kuala Lumpur on March 22, 2017. (AFP/Mohd Rasfan)
Jack Ma, the billionaire co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, urged Mark Zuckerberg to tackle the growing criticism aimed at Facebook Inc. by regulators and users around the world, and “really take it seriously.”
China’s richest man and chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. on Monday weighed in on the controversy, calling on his fellow internet pioneer to “fix” a social network that had grown explosively over the past decade and a half. Asked at the Boao Forum about the Facebook furor, the billionaire started dismissing questions but then couldn’t help opining on the crisis facing the U.S. company.
Facebook’s shares have tumbled since the company disclosed in March that it may have shared the personal data of tens of millions of users with Cambridge Analytica, a research firm that helped elect President Donald Trump. Enraged users launched a #deletefacebook campaign and regulators around the world are investigating its handling of sensitive personal information.
“It is the time to fix it. It is the time for the CEO to really take it seriously. I think the problems will be solved,” Ma told delegates to the annual conference on the sunny island of Hainan.
Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear before the U.S. Congress this week and plans to say Facebook’s problems are his mistake. The social-media company didn’t do enough to prevent its tools from being used for harm, especially in terms of fake news, foreign interference in elections, hate speech, developer policies and data privacy, he will say, according to his prepared testimony.
Ma stopped short of laying out his views in detail, but did say the social network was valuable and that its issues may have arisen simply because of its phenomenal and unprecedented expansion.
“We should not kill the company because of these problems,” he said. “I will say, Facebook 15 years ago, they never expected this to grow like that. All the problems they could not realize came up.”
Ma also expressed concern about a looming trade war between the U.S. and China. He said American jobs would be lost if the relationship between the two countries worsens, instead of Alibaba being able to fulfill an earlier pledge to help create 1 million new positions.
— With assistance by Jeff Black, and Yuan Gao