Facebook wants 'more active' government regulation
WASHINGTON DC, USA – Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on Saturday, March 30, called on governments to play a "more active role" in regulating the internet, urging more countries to adopt versions of sweeping European rules aimed at safeguarding user privacy.
Facebook and other internet giants have long resisted government intervention, but the leading social network has reversed course amid growing calls for regulation, in an apparent bid to help steer the debate.
"I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators," Zuckerberg wrote in an op-ed published in The Washington Post.
"By updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what's best about it – the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things – while also protecting society from broader harms," he said.
Where should it be regulated? Zuckerberg argues that new regulations are needed in 4 areas: harmful content, protection of elections, privacy and data portability.
Facebook has drawn fire over all 4, from hate speech on the platform and the recent livestreaming of attacks on mosques in New Zealand, to its use in foreign efforts to meddle in elections and concerns over its collection of personal user data.
The Philippines itself has suffered abuses on his social media platform. "Facebook admitted that we are Patient Zero in the global fight against disinformation," Rappler executive editor and CEO Maria Ressa recalled in a July 2018 newsletter.
Addressing protection of user privacy, Zuckerberg said he would support more countries adopting rules in line with the European Union's sweeping General Data Protection Regulation, which gives regulators sweeping powers to sanction organizations which fail to adhere to heightened standards of security when processing personal data.
"I believe it would be good for the internet if more countries adopted regulation such as GDPR as a common framework," Zuckerberg wrote, also calling for regulation to guarantee data portability between services.
Facebook admits 'too much power': On harmful content, Zuckerberg said he agreed with lawmakers who have argued that "we have too much power over speech," saying that "third-party bodies" could set standards on distribution of harmful material and "measure companies against those standards."
And on elections, Zuckerberg noted that existing laws are focused on candidates and elections instead of "divisive political issues where we've seen more attempted interference," urging legislation to be updated to "reflect the reality of the threats."
"The rules governing the internet allowed a generation of entrepreneurs to build services that changed the world and created a lot of value in people's lives," Zuckerberg wrote.
"It's time to update these rules to define clear responsibilities for people, companies and governments going forward," he added.
Facebook also played a crucial role in the Philippines' 2016 elections that elected President Rodrigo Duterte. The 2016 election period also saw a rise of fake accounts and fake news on Facebook.
On Friday, March 29, Facebook took down 200 pages and accounts organized by Nic Gabunada, Duterte's social media manager in his presidential campaign.
Facebook said these pages and accounts "engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram in the Philippines, misleading others about who they were and what they were doing."
How it happened in the Philippines: Zuckerberg's admission comes after his company was found to allow disinformation go unchecked online, notably in the Philippines during the election of Duterte in 2016.
In October 2016, Rappler dived deep into these operations, reporting on how online political influencers, fake news, and trolls could twist the truth and polarize a country given the current configuration of Facebook.
"These all impact public perception. Fallacious reasoning, leaps in logic, poisoning the well – these are only some of the propaganda techniques that have helped shift public opinion on key issues," wrote Ressa in the first installment of Rappler's disinformation series.
Rappler investigative head Chay Hofileña concluded the series, saying: "The battle to preserve truth has shifted online and is no longer fought in the streets alone. Technology has created platforms of empowerment and self-expression, but without timely intervention, it could evolve into a monster that could devour and swallow us all."
The environment has led Philippine vice president Leni Robredo – the subject of many of these disinformation attacks – for the regulation of social media.
"In 2016, social media played a huge role in this, because there were so many attacks against people that did not have basis. And this was just because there were people who created the infrastructure to proliferate fake news. For me, if we don’t do anything about this, it will only get worse," she said on Wednesday, March 20.
Robredo drew flak for saying social media should be regulated, prompting her to issue a clarification on Thursday, March 21.
"Individual freedom of expression must always be protected. But the deliberate, organized, and large-scale distribution of fake news on social media needs to be addressed through legislation, as well as the policies of the concerned social media companies," Robredo said. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com