From Facebook posts to The Washington Post.
The big tech landscape is one that continues to be populated by regulators, by disparate voices calling for more oversight, more laws, more mandates spelling out what is private and what is not.
To the growing chorus … add Facebook.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in blog posts and an op-ed in The Washington Post this past weekend that there should be heavier regulations on his industry (on the internet in general) and that, with a nod to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), a common framework is to be desired.
The blog post offered up four areas for “more active” oversight and more government participation. Elsewhere, Zuckerberg said a benefit of updating rules would be the protection of elections, where new rules for online political ads would “reflect the reality of the threats” with which social media companies grapple.
“Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” wrote Zuckerberg. “These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”
GDPR as a Framework
As is germane to GDPR, wrote the executive in his blog, “Effective privacy and data protection needs a globally harmonized framework. People around the world have called for comprehensive privacy regulation in line with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, and I agree. I believe it would be good for the internet if more countries adopted regulation such as GDPR as a common framework.” Such regulations should not require companies to store data locally, Zuckerberg said. “And it should establish a way to hold companies such as Facebook accountable by imposing sanctions when we make mistakes.”
And yet, some observers remained unimpressed, while others welcomed the blog/op-ed’s message. As CNBC reported in the wake of the missives, Dr. Jennifer Cobbe, coordinator of the Trust & Technology Initiative at the University of Cambridge, said in an email that “by trying to focus attention on GDPR, Zuckerberg is presumably trying to protect Facebook by getting out ahead of other regulation and trying to avoid getting into conversations about competition law and breaking up these monopolizing tech giants.”
Separately, in an example of support, U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) said he’s “glad to see” the executive’s acknowledgment that “the era of the social media Wild West is over,” according to CNBC.
In other Facebook news, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is readying talks with state attorneys general about Facebook and Google. Bloomberg quoted Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry as stating that a meeting will be in the offing, as “what we have here is different layers of problems all surrounding big tech as a whole. These are issues that attorneys general around the country on both sides of the aisle have been discussing for quite some time now.” He said, too, that Google may be the focus of antitrust and consumer protection issues. “Would the FTC allow Chase or Goldman Sachs to own the Nasdaq?” Landry said. “The answer to that would be absolutely not.”
In other legal action against Facebook, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has sued the social media company, alleging the firm has run real estate ads that discriminated against users based on gender or ethnicity. The agency wants unspecified damages and also has called for the “maximum civil penalty.”
Separately, the Financial Times reported over the weekend that Google has stopped distributing ads in China for two sites that review anti-censorship software.
The move is viewed by some as signaling an attempt by Google to “curry favor” with Chinese officials, noted the report. One firm is VPN Mentor and the other is Top10VPN. The first company reviews services that can be used to circumvent Chinese surveillance and other actions that are designed to help control internet-based activity.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai last week met with President Donald Trump to hold a discussion focused on contracts and partnerships between Google and the U.S. government, The Verge reported. The meeting prompted the president to tweet that Pichai stated “strongly that he is totally committed to the U.S. military, not the Chinese military. [We] also discussed political fairness and various things that Google can do for our country. Meeting ended very well!”