Zuckerberg call for tech rules gets cold reception

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg raised eyebrows over the weekend with a call for regulating internet giants, but his proposals are facing skepticism from the social network’s critics.

Regulators, lawmakers and activists who have grown wary of Facebook saw Zuckerberg’s move less as a mea culpa and more as an effort to shape future regulations in his favor and counter more drastic proposals like Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) demand to break up Silicon Valley’s giants.

{mosads}“Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t get to make the rules anymore,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who chairs the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, wrote in a tweet. “Facebook is under criminal and civil investigation. It has shown it cannot regulate itself. Does anyone even want his advice?”

A top regulator in the United Kingdom, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, whose office fined Facebook about $560,000 last year over its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, also pushed back against Zuckerberg. Denham said Zuckerberg could show his sincerity about welcoming regulatory oversight by dropping Facebook’s appeal of the fine.

“In light of Mark Zuckerberg’s statements over the weekend about the need for increased regulation across four areas, including privacy, I expect Facebook to review their current appeal against the [Information Commissioner’s Office] £500,000 fine — the maximum available under the old rule — for contravening UK privacy laws,” Denham said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Facebook did not respond when asked for comment.

In his Washington Post op-ed, Zuckerberg highlighted four areas where he believed Facebook and other internet platforms could benefit from greater oversight: content moderation, election integrity, data privacy and data portability.

{mosads}The social network has faced withering criticism over its efforts to combat disinformation and toxic content, as well as its handling of user information. Facebook has struggled to respond to the increased attention on its business practices and the public’s evolving expectations for tech giants.

Zuckerberg’s proposal appears to be part of an effort to set clear oversight principles for the industry and shift the burden that has come with Facebook effectively being allowed to regulate itself.

The company has announced a proposal to create an independent oversight panel to review and set guidelines on content moderation. Zuckerberg says users would be able to appeal Facebook’s enforcement actions to the board. The social network this week invited public input on the proposal.

It has also reformed its political advertising policies in the years since the 2016 presidential race to promote more transparency about who is buying ads and has ramped up its content oversight to track and crack down on disinformation campaigns.

“However, deciding whether an ad is political isn’t always straightforward,” Zuckerberg wrote in his opinion piece. “Our systems would be more effective if regulation created common standards for verifying political actors.”

And as Congress mulls a potential tech privacy bill, the Facebook CEO called for the U.S. to implement data regulations that apply uniformly across the country. That echoes the tech industry line that Congress should wipe out a tough new privacy law in California and head off other states from trying to implement their own regulations.

A consistent set of rules governing internet privacy “will ensure that the Internet does not get fractured, entrepreneurs can build products that serve everyone, and everyone gets the same protections,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Zuckerberg’s proposals, though, have gotten a cold reception from both ends of the political spectrum.

Brendan Carr, a Republican on the Federal Communications Commission, said it would be a mistake to invite more government involvement in speech.

“Outsourcing censorship to the government is not just a bad idea, it would violate the First Amendment,” Carr said in a tweet.

And the reliably conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board pushed back as well, saying that regulations would hurt small businesses trying to compete on the internet.

“Before he invites the protection of the political class, Mr. Zuckerberg should have Facebook fix Facebook,” the board wrote.

Critics who have been calling for the government to take action against the company over its privacy practices and market power are wary of Facebook’s efforts to propose potential fixes.

Zuckerberg’s call for tougher regulations also comes close to a year after he was hauled before Congress to testify over Facebook’s data practices and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the political consulting firm harvested millions of Facebook users’ data without their consent. The Facebook CEO faced tough questions from lawmakers over two days and 10 hours of testimony. And while he offered a strong defense of his company, he also vowed to address their concerns.

Since then, Facebook has found itself under fire on a number of fronts, from data privacy to antitrust concerns floated by President Trump to allegations of anti-conservative bias. And the company is likely to be on the hot seat with both 2020 Democrats and conservative Republicans eager to take on tech companies.

Zuckerberg will face a challenge trying to sway those critics.

Sally Hubbard, the director of enforcement strategy at the Open Markets Institute, believes that Facebook’s business model is creating harm for which Zuckerberg is trying to dodge responsibility.

“I think he’s trying to avoid what we really need, which is to stop the massive collection of data and to stop these algorithms that prioritize engagement and elevate the [harmful] content,” Hubbard told The Hill.

“In my view, anything that’s going to be effective is going to have to have a very negative effect on their profitability unless they change their business model.”

Tags David Cicilline Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Mark Zuckerberg

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