Facebook White Paper Reveals Ideas For Internet Regulation

Facebook published a white paper outlining how it would like lawmakers to regulate the Internet, including a new model for platforms’ legal liability and a “new type of regulator” to oversee the rules governing harmful content. The white paper appeared at the same time chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed published in The Financial Times and went to Brussels for meetings with European Commission executive vice president/competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager and other senior EU officials.

Bloomberg reports that, “meanwhile, Facebook’s user growth is stagnating in the U.S. and Canada — its most important markets.” Zuckerberg, who long resisted the idea of regulation, most recently said that, “good regulation may hurt Facebook’s business in the near term but it will be better for everyone, including us, over the long term.”

In the past, he’s called for “global regulation covering election integrity, harmful content, privacy and data portability,” and most recently asked for “clarity around what constitutes a political ad — especially if paid for a group not directly affiliated with a political party, such as a non-governmental organization.”

Zuckerberg added that he is considering “opening up [Facebook’s] content moderation systems for external audit to help governments design regulation in areas like hate speech.”

The white paper also spelled out that, “any new rules should hold Internet companies accountable for having certain procedures in place and platforms should meet specific performance targets when it comes to handling content that violates their policies … [and that] rules should also define forms of speech that should be prohibited online, even if they’re not illegal.”

Zuckerberg also called for “a different regulatory system … somewhere between newspaper publishers, who can be sued for what journalists write in their pages, and telecommunications companies, who aren’t liable for customer conversations” that will require “a new type of regulator that is proficient in data, operations and online content.”

Zuckerberg and EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton “discussed platform regulation, market dominance and liability,” with Breton noting Facebook’s “use of AI systems to take down more harmful content.” But, Breton added, “if we see that it’s not what we need regarding our own standards, then we will have to regulate.”

Zuckerberg again stressed that, “companies shouldn’t be in charge of making decisions that balance competing social values.” “People need to feel that global technology platforms answer to someone,” he said in his op-ed, adding that this belief doesn’t mean his company is “passing off responsibility.”

Alphabet chief executive Sundar Pichai also recently visited EU officials in Brussels, to discuss regulation of artificial intelligence.