Everybody agrees that the internet needs new rules – from those governing how people’s private data is handled, or how the integrity of elections is preserved, to the mechanisms for allowing data to flow between companies and nation states or how harmful content is identified and taken down. These decisions will determine whether the norms and standards of the internet are created on a global level, preserving the open, accessible and universal internet of today, or whether individual countries will diverge further from each other, creating their own rules and systems, turning themselves into walled gardens and ending the universal global internet as we know it.
But we in Europe and the West are not the only ones grappling with decisions about the future of the internet. As we speak, there is a fight for the soul of the internet already underway. In fact, another internet already exists. The Chinese internet – one based on very different values: state control; censorship; and surveillance. And some other countries, to greater or lesser degrees, are beginning to follow China’s lead.
Europe may not have its own Silicon Valley, or be as advanced in large scale AI as China or the West Coast of the United States, but it is a thought leader when it comes to the future of the internet. GDPR was the first serious attempt to create a set of principles and rules around private data in the digital age. And those principles are at the heart of a vision for the internet that I believe is shared among all open societies: that it is accessible to all; transparent and accountable; that you control your own data; and that competition and innovation should be encouraged.
Facebook wants to add its voice
In the US, the political debate is around whether big tech companies should be broken up. Here, in the EU, it is largely about how tech companies should be better regulated. In both cases, the fundamental question is the same: how can the power of large tech companies be held to account?
Facebook wants to add its voice to this debate in a constructive way. We are not resisting regulation – the opposite, in fact. Regulating the tech sector is a far more effective way to ensure that tech serves the needs of society than simply chopping successful companies into bits. We have not only long accepted the need for new regulation in a host of areas, we are impatient to get going.
It is now time we moved beyond words and towards action. A new EU Commission is in post, a new Parliament has been elected, and a great regulatory challenge lies before us. My message to European policymakers is: Everyone agrees the internet needs new rules. We want them, just as you do. So let’s get to work.
One area where we should work together is data portability. The reason is simple: if we want a competitive, open internet where new services can compete with large platforms like Facebook, we have to enable to people to move their data from one service to a competing one.
You're not giving us your data
It is a subject we have been working on with policymakers in Germany. Last year we held a series of round table discussions hosted by Stiftung Datenschutz and attended by government and industry representatives, privacy experts, civil society and data protection authorities, which resulted in a report that raised a number of questions and recommendations for how to move forward.