The future of capitalism hinges on how the U.S. government enforces its antitrust laws on the largest technology corporations in the country, Salesforce.com co-CEO Marc Benioff told CNBC on Wednesday.
The Salesforce founder criticized social media platforms for their vulnerability to bad actors, reiterating his belief that Facebook is “probably the new cigarettes” because it is “addictive” to consumers and promotes false ads.
“They’re providing data to tens of thousands of partners without the knowledge of their users. This is a company that probably should be regulated and broken up; it’s got too much data,” Benioff said in a sitdown with Jim Cramer on “Mad Money,” where he discussed the new book he co-authored with Salesforce executive Monica Langley, “Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change.”
“Capitalism needs guardrails,” Benioff said. “That’s the point of the book. That’s a very important part of the future of technology as well.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The comments come a day after several presidential candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic debate backed regulating or breaking up Big Tech to make room for more competition. In calling for President Donald Trump’s Twitter account to be suspended, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Twitter’s rules should also “apply to the powerful.” Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang said “new solutions and a new toolkit” are needed, suggesting antitrust action won’t go far enough in fixing problems. Front-runner Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who earlier this year revealed her proposal to break up tech titans, signaled that antitrust laws need to be enforced on the giants in Big Pharma and Big Oil as well.
Elsewhere in Wednesday’s interview, Benioff praised competition in the cloud service space, highlighting Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Salesforce Cloud.
“We have to have a great tech industry with many platforms,” he said. “This can provide a set of choices for customers.”
Facebook, Alphabet, Apple and Amazon are facing antitrust probes from various federal departments.
After fighting its own big antitrust battle with the U.S. Department of Justice for more than two decades, Microsoft successfully defended itself from being broken up. The computer company was placed under a consent decree to address monopolistic practices in word processing.
“This is why we have antitrust authorities worldwide embedded in every major government agency, to keep an eye on these things,” said Benioff. “Government has to do what it’s going to do.”
Benioff went on to recommend that the Securities and Exchange Commission rethink how it regulates markets. His proposal would align the agency with the Business Roundtable’s pledge that companies value their stakeholders just as much as their shareholders.
“The SEC can modify its regulations … and say, ‘Hey, tell us who your stakeholders are. Tell us how you’re managing your business, not just your shareholder return, tell us what your stakeholder return [is],'” Benioff said. “Salesforce already publishes its stakeholder return. All companies can do that easily now.”
In his book, Benioff dives into the core values of Salesforce, a customer relationship management business, and its focus on giving back. The CEO, however, shot down any suggestion he plans to run for U.S. president.
“I could never be a politician, I would never run for office, but I do know how to be a tech CEO. I do know how to build a business on all stakeholders. What I want to do … is influence everyone, from the intern to the CEO,” Benioff said, “that they can all be platforms for change and that we can all improve the state of the world.”
Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust owns shares of Salesforce.com, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Alphabet.