Zuckerberg denies call for regulations is ‘passing off responsibility’

17 Feb 2020

Image: © wachiwit/Stock.adobe.com

In an op-ed piece, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave his thoughts on the future of regulation for the social network.

Facebook exists somewhere between a content provider and a telecoms operator, leaving the company open to regulation, according to its founder Mark Zuckerberg. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference at the weekend (15 February), Zuckerberg called for greater regulation in the areas of elections, harmful content, privacy and data portability.

Admitting that the social network failed in responding fast enough to the rise of foreign interference over the past few years, Zuckerberg said that Facebook has made major strides towards countering these efforts using 35,000 staff whose job is to monitor content.

Future Human

However, he defended Facebook’s reputation against criticisms of it being a platform that amplifies extremism and political polarisation, claiming that it is, in fact, bringing people together.

‘Facebook is not waiting for regulation; we’re continuing to make progress on these issues ourselves’

Writing in an op-ed in the Financial Times after his speech, Zuckerberg addressed the issue of political advertising, something that critics have said Facebook is not doing enough to control. The company recently said it does not count political memes released by US presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg as advertising.

“We believe advertising is more transparent on Facebook than television, print or other online services,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We publish details about political and issue ads – including who paid for them, how much was spent, and how many people were reached – in our ads library.”

Because Bloomberg’s posts were not deemed advertising, they were not catalogued in Facebook’s Ad Library.

‘Unintended consequences’

Addressing regulation, the Facebook founder admitted that “more oversight and accountability” are needed in the company, adding that while it may hurt business in the short term, “it will be better for everyone” in the long term.

However, he added that “this isn’t about passing off responsibility”.

“Facebook is not waiting for regulation; we’re continuing to make progress on these issues ourselves,” according to Zuckerberg.

He also warned against introducing blanket regulation, saying it could have “unintended consequences”, especially for small businesses.

“If regulation makes it harder for them to share data and use these tools, that could disproportionately hurt them and inadvertently advantage larger companies that can,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg is meeting EU regulators today (17 February) to determine what greater controls the European body can have over Facebook. It comes less than a week after the social network had to scrap the launch of a new dating service in Europe.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) said it was “very concerned” that it was only given 10 days’ notice of the launch of Facebook Dating. The DPC added that it had not been provided with a complete data protection impact assessment prior to the planned launch.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic