Jack Ma challenges Mark Zuckerberg to ‘fix’ Facebook

by BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG • Jack Ma (picture), the billionaire co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, 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 yesterday 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 yesterday about the Facebook furore, the billionaire started dismissing questions but then couldn’t help opining on the crisis facing the US 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 US 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.

He 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 realise came up.”

Zuckerberg was scheduled to meet with US lawmakers yesterday ahead of two days of what are expected to be heated congressional hearings this week, even as his company has taken steps that may defuse some of their frustration.

Zuckerberg in a Facebook post yesterday said the company will establish “an independent election research commission” to solicit research on the effects of social media on elections and democracy.

“The goal is both to get the ideas of leading academics on how to address these issues as well as to hold us accountable for making sure we protect the integrity of these elections on Facebook,” Zuckerberg said in the post.