Tech Drivers
Tech Drivers

Fox CEO James Murdoch rips Facebook as an 'attack surface'

Key Points
  • James Murdoch is the son of Rupert Murdoch, who has a rocky history with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Facebook is facing heightened scrutiny after widespread reports of abuse on its platform, including foreign election meddling and difficult-to-detect hate speech.
  • Murdoch questioned the ad-based business model that Facebook has repeatedly defended.
James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, speaking at the 2018 Code Conference.
Asa Mathat | Vox Media

Facebook looks "less like an ad business and more like an attack surface," James Murdoch, the CEO of 21st Century Fox, said at Recode's Code Conference this week.

"You can have neo-Nazis or foreign governments or political actors or whatever [on the platform,]" Murdoch said at the conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. "It's easy to do. You can just buy people's accounts and buy their identities — there are farms where you can do that right?... That doesn't seem great."

Facebook is facing heightened scrutiny after widespread reports of abuse on its platform, including foreign election meddling and difficult-to-detect hate speech.

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"From a national security perspective, as well, you really worry about this kind of a platform and I hope that they're dealing with that as seriously as they say they are," Murdoch said.

Facebook has upped its content review efforts and vowed to more effectively curtail abuse surrounding elections. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said at Code the company didn't properly anticipate all the ways in which bad actors could abuse the service.

But Facebook's top executives have repeatedly said there will always be bad actors and dampening abuse will be a constant, ongoing battle. Facebook did not immediately respond to request for comment on Murdoch's response.

James Murdoch's father, Rupert Murdoch, is the CEO of News Corp and founder and chairman of 21st Century Fox, and has a rocky history with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Earlier this year Rupert Murdoch said Facebook should have to pay news publishers for content.

The Murdochs aren't immune to regulatory scrutiny and privacy concerns: James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch both appeared before Parliament after their media company was accused of hacking the voicemails of crime victims, politicians, celebrities and veterans in search of stories.

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Still, Murdoch questioned the ad-based business model that Facebook has repeatedly defended.

"Is engagement above all driving us to the lower common denominators just to have more clicks and more time?" Murdoch asked. "I think that's probably true."

Murdoch, citing tech pioneer Jaron Lanier, said "a communication platform connecting billions of people where every single conversation is mediated by somebody spending money precisely to manipulate them" is bad for society.

Fox is currently the subject of an acquisition bid by Disney, but Comcast is considering a rival all-cash bid.

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

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