It’s rare that CEOs will call for more regulations from the government instead of fewer, but Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg admitted the social media giant could use some more oversight.
Zuckerberg openly lobbied for regulation in four areas in a new opinion piece for The Washington Post published Saturday.
“I believe we need a more active role for government and regulators,” Zuckerberg wrote. “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.”
Facebook, with its 1.52 billion daily users, according to the company, has come under increased scrutiny by the U.S. government since The Guardian reported in December 2015 that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the data of tens of millions of users.
The scandal helped to expose just how much information social media companies, and apps in general, have access to when users sign up for them.
Further scrutiny developed in the wake of the 2016 presidential election when it was reported that foreign entities, especially Russia, used Facebook as a means of spreading false information about the candidates. The recently completed Mueller report outlines the extent to which Russia meddled in the 2016 election through a sustained disinformation campaign, according to a summary of the report by Attorney General William Barr.
Zuckerberg outlines four areas in the op-ed where new regulations are needed: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability. “Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree,” he wrote. “I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own.” Zuckerberg said he is creating an “independent body” to allow people to appeal decisions made on harmful content.
The issue of objectionable content was further exposed earlier this month when a man in New Zealand livestreamed on Facebook an attack on two Muslim houses of worship in which 50 people were killed.
The 34-year-old CEO tackles the issue of elections by calling for updated legislation: “Our systems would be more effective if regulation created common standards verifying political actors.” Zuckerberg says he believes “a common global framework” would help protect people’s privacy on social media and points to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation as a framework. The GDPR, adopted in April 2016, puts in place regulations on person data and attempts to give private individuals control over their own data.
The last area Zuckerberg calls for regulation on is maybe the most esoteric. Data portability refers to the ability to move data shared with one service to another service.
The op-ed comes in opposition to years worth of claims that self-regulation was all that was necessary for Facebook, and other social media companies. Facebook implemented a number of regulations on itself in the past few years, including reviewing ads and requiring political ads to disclose who paid for them.
But Zuckerberg admitted in a much-watched testimony before Congress in April 2018 that he wasn’t entirely opposed to government regulation, he just wanted the right regulation. “My position is not that there should be no regulation,” Zuckerberg said. “The real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation.”
He laid out many of those answers in Saturday’s column.