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Google and Facebook should 'work with regulators,’ says longtime Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett, a longtime adviser to former President Barack Obama, said in a new interview that Google and Facebook should “work with regulators.”

The tech giants have garnered heightened scrutiny over issues of privacy, free speech, and the spread of false information.

“It's a lot easier if you work with the regulators than try to fight them,” she says. “That's a healthier approach to solving the problems that we have rather than just trying to ignore the problems or say ‘no’ to the regulators.”

The platforms have become a haven for bad actors to commit wrongdoing, Jarrett said.

“We have evidence that there is all kinds of mischief going on,” she says. “It is hard to monitor all of that.”

Jarrett made the comments to Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that aired on Yahoo Finance in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

A senior adviser to President Barack Obama over both his terms, Jarrett met Barack and Michelle Obama in the 1990s when Jarrett was a deputy chief of staff to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. After leaving Daley’s administration in 1995, Jarrett spent more than a decade as an executive for real estate firm The Habitat Company, which named her CEO in 2007.

Soon after, Jarrett joined Obama’s presidential campaign as a senior adviser, and she served in that role over both of Obama’s presidential terms. She remains an adviser to the Obama Foundation, and sits on the board of ride-hailing company Lyft and 2U, an education software company.

‘Threatening to our civilization as we know it’

Jarrett urged tech companies like Facebook and Google to help regulators understand how to secure their platforms.

“Figure out, are there ways where you could make it safer and less able to be penetrated and threatening to our civilization as we know it?” says Jarrett, whose book, “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward,” was released this month.

Jarrett’s comments come in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development claiming that Facebook’s targeted advertising violates the Fair Housing Act by allowing advertisers to target their audiences on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender. And on Wednesday, researchers reportedly found that over 540 million Facebook records detailing users’ site activity had been left exposed on an Amazon cloud-computing server.

On Saturday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the value of regulation as a tool for addressing issues on his platform.

“I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators,” he wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

Meanwhile Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate, has said that if elected she would move to break up companies like Facebook and Google.

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation,” said Warren in a post on Medium.

Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance.

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