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.”
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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.
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“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?
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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.