In a seeming change of heart, Mark Zuckerberg backs stronger Internet privacy and election laws: ‘We need a more active role for governments’, he said, and no, there wasn’t a sudden rip in the universe. Zuckerberg penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post entitled The internet needs new rules. Let’s start in these four areas, which are harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.
The editorial, no doubt, comes on the heels of the attention that Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon have been getting from Congress and various Presidential candidates, and as a result of the recent announcement that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube execs face jail and multi-billion pound fines over terror videos. “Australia could become the first country to introduce prison terms and fines if firms fail to speedily remove terror videos like the Christchurch massacre live-stream,” reports The Sun.
It’s a slippery slope, to be sure, and with a growing outcry for the big tech companies to be regulated or at least subject to some sort of oversight, it’s no wonder that the Facebook CEO has taken up the torch, or is at least trying to get ahead of the potential damage in the offing.
What’s interesting is the four points that he addressed.
Facebook – along with Google, Apple, Twitter and Amazon – have been systematically suppressing the views and posts of users whose opinions are not in lockstep with their own, which, besides violent videos and overt hate speech, falls under what they consider ‘harmful content.’
As for election integrity, for all the attention given to the Russian bots and to Cambridge Analytica, we will remind you that Tech billionaire Reid Hoffman apologize(d) for giving money to pro-Democrat group linked to ‘fake news’ disinformation campaign against Roy Moore, using ‘fake Russian bots,’ and note to self: Hoffman was an early Facebook investor.
Guess if apologies are good enough for Zuckerberg, they’re good enough for Hoffman. No repercussions. No harm, no foul.
As for privacy, Facebook tracks people, whether or not they use they platform, and has vehemently maintained its status as a walled garden, re data portability. That data is what made them one of the richest and most powerful companies on the planet. Have they announced a new monetization model that we somehow missed?
In his piece, Zuckerberg did recommend that “One idea is for third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and measure companies against those standards.”
But Facebook et al have already so-called tried that: Facebook, Amazon, Google And Twitter all have had a policy of deferring to the now beleaguered Southern Poverty Law Center, which, as CNN points out, suffers from ‘systemic culture of racism and sexism.’ The group has also been facing RICO charges, racketeering charges and has been plagued by inaccuracies.
Hardly the arbiters of acceptable speech or behavior online.
So why the sudden change of heart from the Facebook founder?
To take a page from Net Neutrality and a tweet from Michael @arrington, who summed it up best: “When a large company calls for regulation, what they are really requesting are regulatory costs that serve as barriers to entry, protecting them from upstart competitors. It means nothing else. Ever.” Cheers to that, and if you believe for a hot minute that it’s anything besides that, to give Zuckerberg himself the last word:
Onward and forward.