Facebook, Twitter are taking a technical approach to a social problem, security expert says

Key Points
  • Cybersecurity expert Raj Goel says there is no room for "bugs" on social media platforms.
  • Dipayan Ghosh, former privacy and public policy advisor at Facebook, said if the industry keeps withholding information from the public the government will need to swing the regulatory ax.
If social media platforms don't step up, we'll need government intervention, says former Facebook advisor

Technology giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are using the wrong approach in policing their social platforms, cybersecurity expert Raj Goel told CNBC on Wednesday.

"They're still taking a technical approach to a social problem. In software, bugs are accepted. You have a bug, no big deal, we'll fix it in the next release. With a media platform, like this, there is no room for bugs," Goel said on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

Goel's comments come amid testimonials by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its hearing on interference in the 2016 election. Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai both declined invitations to testify, and lawmakers rejected the company's offer to send top lawyer and senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker.

The digital giants have all been ramping up detection efforts in light of widespread misinformation campaigns by foreign actors during the 2016 presidential election and subsequent contests. They have increased page removals and public disclosures of abuse ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November. Facebook, Twitter and Google have all removed pages, many Russian or Iranian in origin, they say were engaged in inauthentic behavior or phishing schemes.

Facebook, Twitter and Google are also facing pressure from President Donald Trump, who has accused the companies of liberal bias.

Dipayan Ghosh, a former privacy and public policy advisor at Facebook, said Facebook and other platforms' recent disclosures concerning Iranian- and Russian-controlled accounts and the conversation surrounding the suspension of noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his InfoWars pages show these companies still aren't being proactive enough.

"Only when under pressure from public interest groups and the public do they really take actions that move the ball forward a little bit," Ghosh said in the same "Closing Bell" interview as Goel.

"If this kind of trend continues, if the industry keeps on withholding information from the public and being very reticent in their dealings with government, then we're going to need public interest to rise up, we're going to need the government to come in and swing the ax down," Ghosh added.

In the past, Ghosh said Facebook has taken action, emphasizing its robust privacy policy and engagement with lawmakers in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. But he called these "small steps" that won't cut it in the buildup to the 2020 election.

Goel, chief technology officer and co-founder of Brainlink International, said these companies at some point will have to be regulated, because they know they have a faulty product.

"They know internally that their platform is toxic and dangerous to some segments of the population, but they are hiding behind, 'Oh, we are a neutral platform, it's a public square.' It's a public area marketplace, but hate speech has no place on the open marketplace," Goel said.

Facebook, Google and Twitter did not immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment.