The thin line separating the influence of social media from that of mainstream media seems to be blurring, leading to a debate that norms governing traditional news media should be adopted online too.

Martin Sorrell, founder of WPP, which is among the world’s largest advertising and marketing services groups, believes companies such as Google and Facebook can no longer be termed as just technology companies.

“The growth and influence of these companies have created big questions. I don’t believe these companies, particularly Google and Facebook, are technology companies, but they are media companies. Though they publicly take a position that they are technology companies, I think that is wrong,” Sorrell said at a select media round-table here.

Pointing to issues such as consumer brand safety and data privacy, besides issues of fake news and fraud, among others, Sorrell said: “Just like other media companies — channels, newspapers, magazines, digital channels — are held legally responsible in many countries for the accuracy of the content they print, propagate or publish, I believe these technology companies have to take the responsibility for their content,” said Sorrell. “I believe these technology companies will have to step up to the fact that they are media companies. Admit it, get on with it and be responsible for the content.”

Elaborating, he said Facebook has hired over 3,000 people to monitor its editorial content, which according to him is a clear indication that they are acknowledging the fact that they are also media firms. Sorrell added that “algorithms need to be controlled by humans. This is a serious issue.”

‘Indian bull’ Asked about WPP’s views on doing business in India, he said: “I remain bullish on India not just in the short term, but also for the long term.”

While agreeing that there will be short-term dislocations when a government tries to bring about change (such as the Goods and Services Tax regime), he said he remains very optimistic about India. The reason for the optimism could also be from the fact that the rest of the world is facing fairly tough conditions.

On WPP, he said: “Last year, I was hoping that we will break through in India with $600 million in revenues, which we did this year. We expect to hit $700 million next year, which will be a considerable achievement.

“So, I remain an Indian bull, I am not an Indian bear. Has GST or demonetisation posed issues or problems? I guess the answer is: yes. In our conversations with people, it is pointed out. But, this is short-term,” he said, adding that “brand India is in strong shape.”