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Google and Facebook an obstacle to innovation and democracy: Soros at WEF

His remarks come at a time when many social network sites, including Facebook and Twitter, are facing scrutiny due to alleged Russian influence in the 2016 US presidential election

IANS  |  Davos 

George Soros
George Soros (Photo: https://twitter.com/AFP)

Calling Internet "monopolies" such as and an obstacle to innovation, billionaire investor has warned that companies can have adverse consequences on the functioning of democracy.

Delivering his remarks at the annual here on Thursday, the Hungarian-born American billionaire declared that the days of the US-based IT giants are numbered.

"companies influence how people think and behave without them even being aware of it. This has far-reaching adverse consequences on the functioning of democracy, particularly on the integrity of elections," Soros said.

His remarks come at a time when many social network sites, including and Twitter, are facing scrutiny due to alleged Russian influence in the 2016 US through these platforms.

Soros, who created the to support democracy and human rights in countries around the world, said that companies deliberately addiction to the services they provide.

"This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents," he said.

But the real threat of these companies lie in their efforts aimed at inducing people to give up their autonomy, Holocaust survivor Soros said.

"The power to shape people's attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what called 'the freedom of mind'," he said.

"There is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences. People without the freedom of mind can be easily manipulated," Soros said.

But he believes that the dominance of the US-based would end soon and "regulation and taxation will be their undoing".

"It is only a matter of time before the global dominance of the US IT monopolies is broken. is a good place to announce that their days are numbered," he said.

In the same speech, Soros lamented that he finds the current moment in history rather painful.

"Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of dictatorships and mafia states, exemplified by Putin's Russia, are on the rise. In the US, Trump would like to establish a mafia state but he can't because the Constitution, other institutions, and a vibrant won't allow it," he said.

"Not only the survival of open society, but the survival of our entire civilisation is at stake. The rise of leaders such as in and in the US have much to do with this. Both seem willing to risk a nuclear war in order to keep themselves in power," he said.

Soros stressed that he considers the a danger to the world.

"But I regard it as a purely temporary phenomenon that will disappear in 2020, or even sooner," he said.

 

First Published: Fri, January 26 2018. 16:34 IST
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