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Zuckerberg’s Regulation Proposal Distracts from the Solvable Problems on His Platform – like Piracy

20 April 2019

From Creative Future:

On March 30, in an op-ed published in The Washington Post, the man who once coined the phrase “Move fast and break things” made a very public about-face. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called for the internet to be regulated.

“Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”

Seemingly, this was a watershed moment. A concession by an online giant, after years of arguing precisely the opposite, that maybe it isn’t well-equipped to solve the problems it itself had created. That the time had come, Zuckerberg continued, for “a more active role for governments and regulators.”

. . . .

Perhaps because we have heard it all before, we are skeptical of Zuckerberg’s big proclamation. Or perhaps we are just not that impressed by the sight of a CEO worth billions pleading for the government to step in and clean up his mess. Or perhaps, as some have suggested, there are even more sinister forces at play here.

. . . .

“By draping his essay in the guise of cooperation, Zuckerberg hopes to distract policymakers from the real threat,” wrote Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor who has morphed into one of its fiercest critics. “Internet platforms like Facebook and Google dominate the public square in every country in which they operate… No one elected these companies and they refuse to be held accountable. That must change.”

Zuckerberg’s pining for a uniform set of rules to govern his public square seems like a grand gesture toward a kind of formal accountability – but the truth is, it is yet another opportunity for him to shirk responsibility. In the piece, he calls for a “globally harmonized framework,” which sounds nice but is an absurdly unrealistic goal. Can you think of a single thing that is “harmonized” across the world’s nearly 200 existing national governments, subject to a consistent set of regulatory guidelines that every country honors and upholds? Why would something as massively complicated as the entire internet be any different?

. . . .

Exacerbating this delusion, Zuckerberg recommends his proposed regulation formulate around not one, not two, but four primary concerns: “harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability.” Any one of these concerns on their own would pose a logistical nightmare around which to legislate. If Zuckerberg’s plan is to wait for the nearly 200 existing national governments to come together around all of them, he’s going to be waiting a long time – which is precisely his plan. The buck officially passed, he can now sit back and continue doing what he has been doing – evading any “meaningful” regulation until the world finally agrees on his impossibly lofty set of regulatory ideals.

In essence, Zuckerberg has presented us with a fantasy, offering little in the way of specifics and leaving out other, equally crucial regulatory categories entirely – such as unfair competition and market monopolization within the internet industry. It is not surprising, of course, that Zuckerberg does not want to talk about antitrust, but shouldn’t his list at least include the regulation of artificial intelligence – the force behind the algorithms that steer and essentially control our online lives? Or what about CreativeFuture’s core issue of piracy, an internet plague that affects the livelihoods of millions of people?

Link to the rest at Creative Future

PG thinks part of Zuckerberg’s reason for making this suggestion is that Facebook and similar companies are rich with financial and human resources and have the ability to adjust to government regulation and take legal steps to fight or blunt regulations that might be harmful to Facebook.

PG suggests that Zuckerberg’s biggest fear is that another Mark Zuckerberg is laboring in obscurity, working on an idea that will make Facebook obsolete almost overnight.

Like all startups, The hypothetical Bane of Facebook faces many hurdles and obstructions. Even a much better idea is not enough to guarantee success. Financing becomes necessary, hiring the right people early on is very important.

If you add a requirement to comply with complex government regulations in each country where the startup wants to be available online, that might be a bridge too far for a potential Facebook killer. Violating a law no one inside the startup has never heard of can bring a deluge of bad publicity and an avalanche of legal costs.

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4 Comments to “Zuckerberg’s Regulation Proposal Distracts from the Solvable Problems on His Platform – like Piracy”

  1. Ah – no. Zuckerberg can no more stop piracy than Trump can stop speeding and texting while driving.

    And Zuckerberg wants the government to do the policing – that way he doesn’t have to waste any money on it and he then has a scapegoat when it doesn’t work (and it won’t.)

    “Exacerbating this delusion, Zuckerberg recommends his proposed regulation formulate around not one, not two, but four primary concerns: “harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability.” Any one of these concerns on their own would pose a logistical nightmare around which to legislate.”

    And there’s the trick to this pony, it can’t/won’t actually get done because everyone’s definitions of those four is different.

    As a geek, Zuckerberg most likely read the BOfH, and one of the old boy’s tricks was to ‘agree’ that ‘something needs to be done’, suggest a committee be formed to figure out the best course of action. Once management ‘thought’ things were being taken care of they forgot about it, and the BOfH made sure the committee never came to a conclusion or filed an update or report … 😉

  2. “Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful…”

    What? The only harmful speech is yelling fire in a crowded theater or pointing at an individual and telling a crowd to kill them. Since you can’t do either on the internet, maybe no speech, Zuck, maybe let people say what they want to say.

  3. PG suggests that Zuckerberg’s biggest fear is that another Mark Zuckerberg is laboring in obscurity, working on an idea that will make Facebook obsolete almost overnight.

    It’s already been done. Todays young people don’t use Facebook at all. It’s all about the Instagram.

    — which Facebook bought.

    As far as the rest of it goes, this is just a fight about who gets to be the censor.

  4. Once well-established, big companies work as hard as possible to erect barriers to entry for future competitors.

    Amazon refused to be a sales tax collector until they were big enough to need local facilities in most states and thus had no excuse not to. Suddenly, they were in favor in sales tax for all.
    When Congress, knowing which side their bread is buttered on, refused, they used the merchant vendors loophole to keep most of their sales tax free.

    Using government to block others from traveling the same road you did is also an old trick. Netscape gave their browser for free to end users to entrench their proprietary HTML tags as a defacto standard. But then they got cheap and decided to let a standards body experiment and control the spec, thinking they could always wait until it was fully defined and debugged to implement it. But when they discovered MS was stealing a march by implementing HTML 4.2 before it was officially sanctioned, taking advantage of the molasses pacing of standards bodies and thus becoming the new defacto standard, suddenly giving the browser away for free and bundling it in the OS like IBM, Apple, and BeOS did was eeevile. And they went straight to their pet politicians to get them to rescue them.

    The latter practice is global, most prominently practiced by the Asian “tigers”, Brazil, and many continental European countries. In the US it is mostly farmers (look up the chicken war between the US and Europe) and automakers that are more equal than the others.l

    Free and open competition is mostly for techies and startups.

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