Zuckerberg's Openness to Gov't Regulation Could Create New Way to Crush Competition
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he thinks Facebook should be regulated by the federal government, but some have raised concerns such a move could strengthen the social media platform’s de facto monopoly.
Zuckerberg broke his silence regarding the Cambridge Analytica controversy in both a lengthy statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday and in an interview with CNN.
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg wrote in the post.
The Facebook founder told CNN in an interview that federal regulation of his platform — which has over 214 million users in the U.S. and 2 billion worldwide — is probably needed.
“I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated. I think in general, technology is an increasingly important trend in the world and I actually think the question is more, what is the right regulation, rather than ‘yes or no, should it be regulated?’”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: "I'm not sure we shouldn't be regulated. … I actually think the question is more, 'What is the right regulation?' rather than, 'Yes or no, should it be regulated?'" pic.twitter.com/aKR3p9ogIh
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) March 22, 2018
He went on to address political advertising on Facebook specifically, saying, “If you look at how much regulation there is around advertising on TV and print, it’s just not clear why there should be less on the internet. We should have the same level of transparency required.”
“I know a couple of senators are working really hard on this,” he added. “People should know who is buying the ads that they see on Facebook, and you should be able to go to any page and see all ads that people are running to different audiences.”
Just watched Mark Zuckerberg on @CNN & I was surprised to hear him say he supported the senate bill on election ads. That’s my bill—the Honest Ads Act—w/ @SenJohnMcCain & @MarkWarner ..It’s a new position for Facebook & we’d like to get it done before election. Twitter? Google?
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) March 22, 2018
Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced the the Honest Ads Act, which Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are co-sponsoring.
Beyond political ad disclosure, some are concerned regulating Facebook could prevent rival social media platforms from rising up.
Following Zuckerberg’s appearance on CNN, Emily Bell — a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism tweeted — “Main news from interview: Facebook ready for regulation” to which Washington Examiner commentator Tim Carney responded, “…thus heightening barriers to entry to potential competitors.”
Wired reported the Honest Ads Act “does nothing to address the data privacy concerns … For that, the US would need something much bigger.”
The news outlet noted that the European Union passed legislation that requires Facebook to inform people who use online services exactly what data companies will take and how they will use it.
David Vladeck, the former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said this law sounds good in theory but can create a great burden in practice.
“The implementation of it, in my view, is going to be ineffective, because it places an enormous regulatory burden on some parties, and worse, it places an enormous regulatory burden on the data protection authorities that need to enforce it,” he said.
Another avenue Washington could seek to regulate is the content on Facebook and other social media platforms, which again comes with significant compliance costs.
Zuckerberg told Wired that German hate speech laws require Facebook to remove offending posts within 24 hours.
“The German model — you have to handle hate speech in this way — in some ways that’s actually backfired,” he stated. “Because now we are handling hate speech in Germany in a specific way, for Germany, and our processes for the rest of the world have far surpassed our ability to handle that.”
Finance industry commentator Liz Peek, in an Op-Ed for The Hill, argued that competition, not regulation, is the way to address the data controversy.
“Government restrictions will not only prove pointless but could well undermine the forces that will ultimately bring Facebook and its rivals to heel: competition,” she wrote. “In the last quarter, the number of daily active North American users on Facebook declined for the first time ever.”
“Rivals will rein in bad behavior from Facebook, not new rules, and it is that potential leash that regulators might destroy,” Peek went on to contend.
She said Facebook will easily be able to shoulder the costs of complying with regulations, but start-ups will not.
Peek also pointed out the very data techniques employed by Cambridge Analytica to assist Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in targeting voters were praised when used by former President Barack Obama in his 2012 re-election campaign.
“We should not ignore the ways in which social media giants betray our trust,” wrote Peek. “But it is up to customers of these firms to police their activity. If you want your data protected, do not share it on social media, period.”
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