Facebook's 'Please Regulate Us' Tour Heads To France

from the we'll-see-how-that-goes dept

On Friday, Mark Zuckerberg went to France, just in time for the French government to release a vague and broad proposal to regulate social media networks. Similar to Zuckerberg’s pleas to Congress to ramp up its regulation of the company (and because he knows that any pushback on regulations will likely be slammed by the world of Facebook-haters), Zuckerberg tried to embrace the plans.

“It’s going to be hard for us, there are going to be things in there we disagree with, that’s natural,” Zuckerberg said. “But in order for people to trust the internet overall and over time, there needs to be the right regulation put in place.”

He also said that he was “encouraged and optimistic about the regulatory framework that will be put in place.”

What is that regulatory framework? Well, it’s pretty vague. It also has PowerPoint artwork that looks like it was designed decades ago by someone who has no business being anywhere near PowerPoint:

To its credit, the plan does recognize that “freedom of expression” is a key value that needs to be protected, as well as freedom for innovation, but then also says those need to be balanced with a protection from harm. The key issue, as we’ve seen in other such plans is that it creates what people are referring to as a “duty of care” for social media — requiring the company to “protect” users and allows regulators to somehow step in if they feel the company isn’t succeeding (as if that won’t be abused).

The plan also sets up a regulator who will be tasked with overseeing how social media platforms operate. There is also some hand-waving, suggesting that these rules will only apply to platforms of a certain size, which lets them argue that it won’t impact or discourage startups, without recognizing how it might alter the overall market as companies seek to avoid whatever threshold rules put them into the “regulated” category. Also, much of the plan does focus on increasing transparency, which is a good thing, but how that gets worked out in practice is a really big question.

The issue in all of this is the same as we’ve discussed before: Facebook can deal with these rules. It’s not clear if other companies can. In effect, the rules might lock in Facebook and this particular paradigm of centralized, siloed social media as what must exist going forward. And that’s a problem. Also, trusting regulators to handle these issues in a reasonable way should raise some eyebrows. For people who hate Donald Trump, how would you feel if he were in charge of regulating what sort of “duty of care” Facebook had to take concerning allowing or disallowing certain speech? Or if you like Trump, then how would you feel if, say, Hillary Clinton or AOC were in charge of such things?

In short, who the regulator is can have a pretty massive impact here, and there seems to be little in these proposals to consider that. It’s not surprising that Facebook seems resigned to “support” these kinds of proposals. The company is such a target right now that any pushback would probably lead to even worse rules. And, as mentioned, the company is well aware that it can probably weather any such rules, while any potential competitors will probably be hit much harder by them.

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Companies: facebook

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Comments on “Facebook's 'Please Regulate Us' Tour Heads To France”

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32 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

and because he knows that any pushback on regulations will likely be slammed by the world of Facebook-haters

You’re always so eager to try to paint Facebook as the victim. Yes, poor little Facebook is just being unfairly targeted by "Facebook haters", and has clearly done nothing to deserve it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Oh please don't throw me into that regulation patch...'

The issue in all of this is the same as we’ve discussed before: Facebook can deal with these rules. It’s not clear if other companies can. In effect, the rules might lock in Facebook and this particular paradigm of centralized, siloed social media as what must exist going forward.

I can all but guarantee that that is one of if not the driving force behind this. Facebook is big enough to handle any such regulations, whereas potential competition to them would not be, and would die before they could possible replace the company. By being front and center in the discussion they can also guide it to best help them, and/or hamstring any other competitors

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Oh please don't throw me into that regulation patch

There have been countless social networking outfits started and killed over the years since FB began growing so large. They have all failed due to a lack of interest. Why should any random internet denizen bother signing up with some small networking site when all of their friends and family are already on FB? No way they’ll get all their friends and family to switch to some small startup with half the features of FB.

Nope. We’re stuck with FB, probably forever.

freedomfan (profile) says:

Facebook understands that you can’t have regulatory capture without regulations.

They understand that artificial barriers to market entry benefit the big players in the market, and they are the biggest player in their market.

They understand that the next Facebook would be their competition. But, that competition can be killed in the womb by regulations. Just as Facebook never would have gotten off the ground if Zuck & Co. had thought, "Here we have a potentially game-changing idea for a technology business. Now, to hell with engineers, programmers, UI designers, network experts to get this thing to work at scale. Let’s hire a $1,000,000 worth of lawyers to make sure we are compliant with the social media regulations, many of which will vary from country to country and won’t really be settled law until years after the legislation is passed."

In short, they are like everyone else who climbs to the top then decides to burn the ropes that they climbed to get there.

Smartassicus the Roman says:

Idiots

If any government steps in it’ll be a disaster.
Speaking in the case of the USA, can you imagine a govt regulatory agency directing what is and is not allowed on social media? The free market is handling this slowly, but surely. If you don’t like facebook, don’t grovel to government. Go somewhere else; make your own platform.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Idiots

Speaking in the case of the USA, can you imagine a govt regulatory agency directing what is and is not allowed on social media?

Yes. If the government gets involved then anything goes, speech-wise. The government may not regulate speech. Since FB is 99.999% speech the government would be unable to moderate any of it. It would become an even bigger cesspool than it already is.

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

There have been numerous studies and examples of the failure of moderation. I can characterize me as a bit as hate speach! It’s not really but it’s a good example of why moderation is a big waste of time. We can all agree on definition of SPAM. So eliminating that may be feasable. As for "filled with junk" ones junk may be someone’s revelation and we have to wade through junk in any case!

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