A Grain of Salt for Zuckerberg Suggestions

April 12, 2019

Given the pressures Facebook has been under to better regulate harmful content on its platform, it is no surprise Mark Zuckerberg has weighed in with a blog post on the matter. However, writer Mark Wyci?lik-Wilson scoffs at the Facebook founder’s ideas in the BetaNews write-up, “Mark Zuckerberg’s Calls for Internet Regulation Are Just an Attempt to Shift the Blame from Facebook.” The article outlines Zuckerberg’s “four ideas to regulate the internet,” noting that, coming from anyone else, they might be plausible suggestions: First, there’s the concept of privacy regulations like those in Europe’s GDPR. Zuckerberg also says he wants more control over hate speech, and to exert tighter standards over political advertising, especially near election time. Finally, he counsels data portability.

We’re reminded nothing is actually standing in the way of Facebook implementing these ideas on its own—and this is what makes Wyci?lik-Wilson suspicious of Zuckerberg’s motives. He also notes a couple tendencies he has observed in the Facebook CEO: to pass the buck when something goes wrong, and to spin any attempts to address users’ concerns as a PR positive. He writes:

Whilst admitting that ‘companies such as Facebook have immense responsibilities’ it seems the Facebook founder would rather have rules and guidelines handed down to him rather than having to do the hard work himself. This is understandable. It would help to absolve Facebook of blame and responsibility. If things go wrong when following regulations set out by the government or other agencies, it’s easy to point to the rulebook and say, ‘well, we’re were just doing as we were told’. At the moment it’s all too easy for Facebook to make a lot of noise about how it wants to improve things while simultaneously raping users’ privacy, and benefiting from the fake news, extremist content and everything else the social network claims not to want to be a platform for. But at the end of the day, a signed-up user is a signed-up user, and acts as a microscopic cog in the advertising-driven money-machine that is Facebook. Facebook has shown time and time again that it can do something about objectionable content and activity — be that political extremism, racism, election interference or whatever. But it doesn’t do anything until it faces insurmountable pressure to do so.

Wyci?lik-Wilson urges Facebook to just go ahead and implement these suggestions already, not wait to be told what to do outside forces. “Less talking, more doing,” he summarizes.

Cynthia Murrell, April 12, 2019

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