This weekend, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Mark Zuckerberg where he declared that governments need to play a more active role in regulation. “From what I’ve learned,” he wrote, “I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.”
That same lobbying effort railed against attempts to regulate harmful content, according to documents seen by Politico. They outline an April 2016 meeting with the EU’s Cabinet Commissioner for Justice where companies like Facebook insisted that their terms of service should be enough to handle content flagged by users; they also highlight a September 2017 memo stating that Facebook discouraged regulation. All of this comes in the face of exposure of their Byzantine “secret rulebook” for content moderation, warts and all, and a ham-fisted and too-tardy crowd-sourcing attempt at stopping the spread of misinformation related to the Indian election.
On the topic of elections: Facebook has been eerily-proactive about election integrity in Canada, investing $500,000 proactively (!) to ensure that the sanctity of our elections is protected. The Canadian Election Integrity Initiative includes a guide for political parties on how they can secure their Facebook pages and accounts. To be clear, then: despite a Communications Security Establishment report warning our government of online threats to our democratic process, and the inability of Facebook to stem the tide of election-related misinformation in India or Brazil, our government has decided to let Facebook determine how our democratic process should be protected… at the same time that Facebook claims to want more guidance from government.
Zuckerberg’s editorial is laughable, coming on the heels of his previous, empty promise to protect user privacy by pretending that encryption and privacy are the same thing (you cannot have privacy without encryption, but you can absolutely have encryption without privacy. In fact, even end-to-end encryption still doesn’t hide data). We need to expose all of this maneuvering for what it really is: a public-relations assault aimed at protecting Facebook’s business model by making the company appear to care about privacy and data management when, in actuality, their control of these factors is the only thing keeping them profitable.
I agree with Zuckerberg that governments need to do more, but to allow Zuckerberg to drive the conversation on any of these fronts is to let the fox loose inside the henhouse. Don’t believe him for a moment.