“Responsibility To Keep People Safe On Our Services,” Says, Mark Zuckerberg

April 2, 2019 by Manal Fatmi

In a statement also published as an opinion piece in The Washington Post, CEO, and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg called for active measures to be put into place for global regulations on hate speech and internet security.

Zuckerberg emphasized the need for new regulation to be made in four particular areas including the removal of harmful content, privacy, data portability, and election integrity.

Zuckerberg urged internet companies to welcome new standardized regulations to monitor and control the flow of harmful content being shared through social media outlets such as Facebook.

“Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyber-attacks. These are important for keeping our community safe. However, if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”

These comments mark the most prominent efforts taken by Zuckerberg to highlight the problems brought forth by the exchange of harmful content on the internet, and the role that companies such as Facebook play in that exchange.

In the course of the recent year, several lawmakers have made Facebook a focal point of their scrutiny after it was revealed that Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, access to the personal information of millions of users, including Zuckerberg himself.

Many Facebook executives, including Mr. Zuckerberg himself, were brought forth to testify in front of Congress because of this and how Facebook could have been responsible for election manipulation.

A more recent video of the massacre that took place in New Zealand was broadcasted across Facebook and many raised questions as to why more prompt efforts weren’t considered to remove the video sooner.

“I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own.”

In his opinion piece, Mark Zuckerberg proposes a system in which specific standardized regulations should be set in place for all the internet companies to follow which would help keep harmful content to a bare minimum.

Facebook, itself has a content reviewing system, to which new rules are added after public outrage on incidents such as the New Zealand shooting, which resulted in Facebook banning content related to white nationalism and white supremacism.

Zuckerberg proposes a model in which third-party regulators are responsible for setting the baselines required to follow, but this is a stark contrast to the way that content is being presently regulated on Facebook, with 15,000 moderators around the world who can only take down content if it violates a rule.

The model proposed could prove to be a significant blow to the tech industry, which has relied on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which relieves internet companies of any responsibility for the quality of content.

“Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree.”

Moreover, the Facebook CEO stated in his op-ed that Facebook would welcome common guidelines for verifying identities before buying political ads.

Mark Zuckerberg, also stated that it would be beneficial for the internet, as a whole, if a common framework were adopted globally, instead of fragmented regulations that are different for each country.

However, it must be kept in mind that companies such as Facebook, have an incentive by accumulating data points concerning customers and sharing that with advertisers.

In lieu of this, certain liberal groups of people have raised concerns to the Federal Trade Commission to split Facebook from its associated services such as Instagram and Whatsapp. However, Zuckerberg announced in January that a single chat tool would be introduced for these services, which would make it difficult to accomplish a breakup if these services are so closely intertwined.

While talking about privacy regulations, Mr. Zuckerberg suggested that data should not be stored locally, which would make it more vulnerable to external and possibly malicious access.

He also talked about the need for measures and precautions to be put in place when sensitive information is moving between two services, to guarantee data portability.

“Finally, regulation should guarantee the principle of data portability. If you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another. This gives people choice and enables developers to innovate and compete.”

The Facebook CEO’s statement was a direct reflection of his previous efforts to frame the problems of Facebook as the problems of the internet in general. However, Zuckerberg’s willingness could shine a light towards a future where essential problems, such as content regulation and internet privacy, are well out of Facebook’s hands. Alternatively, it could give Facebook more time to deal with these issues.

“The rules governing the Internet allowed a generation of entrepreneurs to build services that changed the world and created much value in people’s lives. It’s time to update these rules to define clear responsibilities for people, companies, and governments going forward.”

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