U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called on social media companies and technology firms Thursday to work with law enforcement to protect the public from cybercriminals.
Speaking at a symposium on online crime, Rosenstein said that "social media platforms provide unprecedented opportunities for the free exchange of ideas. But many users do not understand that the platforms allow malicious actors, including foreign government agents, to deceive them by launching vast influence operations."
He said it was up to the companies to "place security on the same footing as novelty and convenience, and design technology accordingly."
He warned that if the technology sector failed to do so, government would have to step in.
"I think the companies now do understand if they do not take it upon themselves to self-regulate — which is essentially the theme of my talk today — they will face the potential of government regulation," he said.
Rosenstein's remarks came a day after the Justice Department charged two Iranian hackers in connection with a multimillion-dollar cybercrime and extortion scheme that targeted government agencies, cities and businesses.
Rosenstein said many tech companies are willing to work with law enforcement and to prevent the use of their platforms to spread disinformation.
But he said that "some technology experts castigate colleagues who engage with law enforcement to address encryption and similar challenges. Just because people are quick to criticize you does not mean that you are doing the wrong thing."
U.S. law enforcement officials have long been pushing tech companies to make it easier for them to access information on private devices such as cellphones and social media accounts. But most firms have resisted, citing privacy of the users.
Rosenstein said data encryption practices were a "significant detriment to public safety."
"Improvements in the ability to investigate crime and hold perpetrators accountable must match the pace at which technology is making crimes easier to commit and more destructive," Rosenstein said.