Two big reason’s Mark Zuckerberg is calling for more government regulation over the Internet

Over the weekend, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, wrote an OpEd piece in the Washington Post that calls for new standard bodies, government oversight and potential regulation over the Internet to deal with privacy, security, hate speech, and fake news.

Zuckerberg has faced serious criticism for allowing Facebook to become a vehicle for more than just social media and a place where people can post almost everything from conspiracy theories, hate speech, fake news and opinionated and often bigoted content. While it has, it’s own rules and regulations, and its business model had kept them from being as restrictive in blocking objectionable content and, in my opinion, allowed Facebook to become something that I don’t believe Zuckerberg could have imagined when he created Facebook.

All of the things Zuckerberg listed should be looked at closely by governments around the world. As he points out:

“Internet companies should be accountable for enforcing standards on harmful content. It’s impossible to remove all harmful content from the Internet, but when people use dozens of different sharing services — all with their policies and processes — we need a more standardized approach.”

He also lists legislation to help protect elections, privacy and security and data portability.

Although there are a lot of reasons he felt compelled to suggest more government oversight over the Internet, I see two key dynamics in place in Zuckerberg’s OpEd that is very specific to Facebook and his role as its CEO.

The first is that this is an admission that he and their team have failed miserably in managing Facebook’s content controls and that the type of material that gets through their filters has gotten out of control. He and his team have been backed into a corner due to this mismanagement of their site’s content. By themselves, they no longer can protect their users from bad content without any help from either a broad standards body, working with government regulators, or direct government regulation that helps keep fake news, threats, conspiracy theories, etc. from ever getting posted on Facebook.

Second, Zuckerberg and team need cover, or someone else to blame, for better policing of the content that is allowed to be posted on Facebook. In a sense, he is asking for help to manage the future of Facebook. If Zuckerberg tried blocking sites or specific content that is harmful beyond their current rules and regulations, he would be caught in a First Amendment battle that he can’t win. While he has the right to block certain sites based on their content that does not comply with their guidelines, there are too many gray areas that would rile up folks of many political and ideological spectrums that he needs help in determining what ultimately is OK to be posted on Facebook.

This is a smart move by Zuckerberg and his team. Many politicians are already on their case who want to either add more controls than Facebook would like or even break them up, as Senator Warren has suggested in her quest to take on many tech companies and their real or perceived power. By enlisting governments to help them deal with their own content problems, he can potentially head off even greater government regulations that could cripple their business model.

He also gains the cover to be more aggressive in blocking sites and objectionable content that is extreme and are used for propaganda, fake news, privacy intrusions, etc. Having standard bodies or direct government regulation can go along way, especially in the US, to holding off First Amendment battles that are impossible to win.

Investors will also likely view regulation as a good sign at this point. Should Facebook become regulated, there is a good chance. Their stock rises as the street will understand that regulation will secure Facebook’s dominance. An underlying theme around regulation protecting incumbents has been notably observed throughout business history. Whether or not protecting their dominance is a reason for Zuckerberg to request regulation is unknown, however, it is clear regulation for Facebook could potentially hurt competition and make force regulation on smaller new social media services even before they have a chance to grow and challenge Facebook’s position.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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