Facebook-CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a hearing in Washington Bild: dpa
We need a more active role for governments and regulators in order to keep the online community safe. Companies cannot and should not make judgements alone. A guest article.
Technology is a major part of our lives, and companies like Facebook have immense responsibilities. Every day we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks. These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn't ask companies to make these judgements alone.
I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators. After focusing on these issues for the past two years, I think it's important to define what roles we want companies and governments to play. By updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what's best about it – the freedom for people to express themselves and entrepreneurs to build new things – while also protecting society from broader harms.
From what I've learned, I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability.
1. Harmful content
First, harmful content. Facebook gives everyone a way to use their voice, and that creates real benefits – from sharing experiences to growing movements. As part of this, we have a responsibility to keep people safe on our services. That means deciding what counts as terrorist propaganda, hate speech, and more. We continually review our policies with experts, but at our scale we'll always make mistakes and decisions people disagree with.
Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree. I've come to believe that we shouldn't make so many important decisions about speech on our own. So we're creating an independent body so people can appeal our decisions. We're also working with governments, including French officials, on ensuring the effectiveness of content review systems.
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 own policies and processes – we need a more standardized approach.
One idea is for third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content, and measure companies against those standards. Regulation could set baselines for what's prohibited and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum.
Facebook already publishes transparency reports on how effectively we're removing harmful content. I believe every major internet service should do this quarterly, because it's just as important as financial reporting. Once we understand the prevalence of harmful content, we can see which companies are improving and where we should set the baselines.
2. Election integrity
Second, legislation is important for protecting elections. Facebook has already made significant changes around political ads: advertisers in many countries must verify their identities before purchasing political ads. We built a searchable archive which shows who pays for ads, what other ads they ran, and what audiences saw the ads. However, deciding whether an ad is political isn't always straightforward. Our systems would be more effective if regulation created common standards for verifying political actors.
Online political advertising laws primarily focus on candidates and elections, rather than divisive political issues where we've seen more attempted interference. Some laws only apply during elections, although information campaigns are non-stop. And there are also important questions about how political campaigns use data and targeting. We believe legislation should be updated to reflect the reality of the threats and set standards for the whole industry.
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