Facebook’s Zuckerberg calls for new global Internet regulations

NEW YORK • Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg (picture) called for new global regulations governing the Internet on Saturday, recommending overarching rules on hateful and violent content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.

In a statement that was also published as an op-ed in the Washington Post, Zuckerberg said the company is seeking regulations that would set baselines for prohibited content and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a minimum.

“We have a responsibility to keep people safe on our services,” he said. “That means deciding what counts as terrorist propaganda, hate speech and more. We continually review our policies with experts, but at our scale we’ll always make mistakes and decisions that people disagree with.”

Zuckerberg’s comments mark his most visible effort so far to shape the discourse around the way the company collects information, uses and disperses it around the world.

Facebook has been the target of probes by various governments after news broke about a year ago that it allowed the personal data of tens of millions of users to be shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. Earlier this month, it came under fire for taking too long to take down a live video of a shooting in New Zealand and allowing it to be circulated across the Internet.

Over the past year, lawmakers have focused greater scrutiny on the company and its immense influence, asking its executives — including Zuckerberg — to testify in front of Congress to explain the proliferation of mis-information, hate speech and election manipulation on the platform. In his post, Zuckerberg proposes that “regulation could set baselines for what’s prohibited and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum”. The tech industry has long said Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is vital to its ability to operate open platforms.

The provision exempts companies from being liable for user-generated content.

Facebook built a content-scanning system which over the years has added rules based on reactions to changes in user behaviour or public uproar after an incident such as the New Zealand mass shooting. Last week, the company moved to ban content that references white nationalism or white separatism from the platform.

Zuckerberg said Facebook would welcome common standards for verifying political actors, citing practices deployed by advertisers in many countries of verifying identities before buying political ads. He also suggested updating laws to include “divisive political issues” in addition to candidates and elections.

The billionaire said it’d be good for the Internet if more countries adopted rules such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation as a common framework.

Zuckerberg said there should also be rules guaranteeing portability of data that protects information when it moves between services. His willingness to embrace regulation could pave the way toward taking the thorniest problems about speech and privacy out of Facebook’s hands — or at least give the company more time to solve them. — Bloomberg