Facebook calls for global internet regulation
Social media giant Facebook made headlines at the start of this week when two of its senior executives made public calls for new, global, internet regulations. Those executives were head honcho Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s top lobbyist and head of global affairs, Nick Clegg (yes, the same Nick Clegg that was once deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and head of the Liberal Democrat political party).
Facebook’s share price has appreciated by 25% so far year to date
Source: Yahoo Finance
Starting at the top, Mr. Zuckerberg’s statement, which was also published as an op-ed in the Washington Post, read: “We have a responsibility to keep people safe on our services. That means deciding what counts as terrorist propaganda, hate speech and more. We continually review our policies with experts, but at our scale we’ll always make mistakes and decisions that people disagree with. Regulation could set baselines for what’s prohibited and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum.”
Facebook has been the target of various governments’ ire in the wake of a number of scandals and atrocities. The company’s somewhat negative image began developing in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election, when a number of privacy issues were exposed. Since then, a spate of allegations about meddling in elections, hate speech, and the recent publication of a mass-shooter from New Zealand’s racist manifesto has not helped Facebook claw its way back into law makers’ good graces.
But Zuckerberg has a point: if the regulations aren’t clear around thorny issues like free speech versus hate speech, then there’s really nothing driving company decisions other than personal opinion and common sense. Take privacy, for example. It’s long been widely known that Facebook harvests user data for advertising (its core business). And every user signs an agreement permitting it upon signing up, then has the ability to restrict who can see what online. Yet, complaints abound. How obvious does Facebook need to make it? Should giant red letters flash up on the platform every ten minutes reminding people? Do they need to opt-in instead of opting-out?
At the moment, governments are using Facebook, as well as the rest of Big Tech, as a public punchbag: law makers aren’t doing the heavy lifting, deciding what’s allowed and not allowed on these platforms – instead, they’re waiting until something goes wrong and pointing to these companies accusingly. That, in political terms, is the best of both worlds. But if Facebook and other companies are to be held accountable, they need clear guidelines that set out for what and in what way.
Clegg leant his voice to Zuckerberg’s, saying in an interview with Bloomberg that “good” regulation would be a benefit to the industry. He added that it would be “much better if these rules are done on a multilateral and global level rather than a piecemeal way, which can contribute to the Balkanization of the internet.”
Zuckerberg wrote: “Every day we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”
Dominion holds Facebook in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.
If you would you like to receive the Newsfeeds daily, please click here to sign up now!Help us make this Newsfeed better by rating this article. 1 star = Poor and 5 stars = Excellent
- Click here to print this story: Print
The views expressed in this article are those of the author at the date of publication and not necessarily those of Dominion Fund Management Limited. The content of this article is not intended as investment advice and will not be updated after publication. Images, video, quotations from literature and any such material which may be subject to copyright is reproduced in whole or in part in this article on the basis of Fair use as applied to news reporting and journalistic comment on events.