‘Worldwide GDPR’ part of Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto for tech regulation

The Facebook CEO strikes a conciliatory note just as UK politicians are primed to legislate against big tech

Mark Zuckerberg speaking at an event

Governments have a more active role to play in devising regulations to govern internet companies and online platforms, according to Mark Zuckerberg.

Despite antagonising regulators for years, the Facebook CEO has outlined four areas in which he feels new regulations and standardised systems are needed, in an article with the Washington Post.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Beyond a standardised and universal set of data protection rules that model themselves off the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), people should be able to shift their data from any platform to another.

Moreover, there should be clearer laws for the use of data in political advertising on social media platforms, and updated legislation to reflect the threats posed by malicious actors.

The question of 'harmful' content shared across social media, meanwhile, should demand a set of common standards across borders and enforceable rules to hold tech companies to account.

"Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree," the Facebook CEO said. "I've come to believe that we shouldn't make so many important decisions about speech on our own.

"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."

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

One idea, Zuckerberg suggests is for third-party bodies to set standards that govern the spread of 'harmful' material, with regulations setting the baseline for what is and isn't allowed. Companies, meanwhile, will be required to build systems that preemptively minimise the potential for harmful content to spread.

This includes material such as footage broadcasted by the New Zealand shooter last month, which Facebook revealed had been online for 12 minutes before any users flagged the stream as inappropriate.

Privacy and data protection standards need a harmonised global framework, he continued, as he sang GDPR's praises, and echoed calls for any new laws in the US to reflect the tough European data protection rules.

Zuckerberg's new tune is an attempt to stay ahead of the curve

It seems Mark Zuckerberg has been on a journey. In his article, the Facebook CEO makes clear that he's come to change his mind on letting lawmakers in on spaces he previously wanted them nowhere near. He adds that Facebook has too much power and that companies like his cannot make important decisions about speech without the help of third-parties and governments.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Is this the same Mark Zuckerberg that, for months, refused to give evidence to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee? Its chair Damian Collins MP acknowledged as much in a tweet, again suggesting the Facebook chief "should start by finally accepting the DCMS select committee invitation".

As for the substance, they strike an opportunistic chord. Privacy, data portability, election integrity, and harmful content; these four areas Zuckerberg has proposed legislation for also happen to be areas in which Facebook has encountered big problems in the last two years.

Indeed, the company's in hot water with regulators, catching the ire of not just the DCMS select committee but the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), and the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC). The DPC is, in fact, pursuing ten major GDPR investigations against Facebook and its subsidiaries.

There's certainly an element of surprise to Zuckerberg's proposals. But his timing gives the game away. From the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal to links between social media use and children's mental health, a tsunami of negative publicity has seen the momentum shift lately. The debate now no longer centres on the question of whether internet companies should be regulated (or not) but how.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), for example, is on the cusp of releasing a set of regulations against tech companies in the UK, dubbed the 'Online Harms' white paper. But there is little indication so far as to how tough these rules will be, or whether the government will bow to pressure to establish an industry regulator. The chorus of voices in the UK demanding regulation in one shape or another, however, means tough rules are inevitable; if not now then in future.

For Facebook, a company for which managing negative press on a near-daily basis has become par for the course, it makes sense, at the very least, to be seen as co-operative in a new regulatory dynamic.

Featured Resources

Successful digital transformations are future ready - now

Research findings identify key ingredients to complete your transformation journey

Download now

Cyber security for accountants

3 ways to protect yourself and your clients online

Download now

The future of database administrators in the era of the autonomous database

Autonomous databases are here. So who needs database administrators anymore?

Download now

The IT expert’s guide to AI and content management

Your guide to the biggest opportunities for IT teams when it comes to AI and content management

Download now


data protection

Health sites are 'unlawfully' sharing medical data with Facebook and Google

7 Apr 2020
data protection

Supreme Court rules Morrisons was not liable for 2014 data breach

1 Apr 2020

UK government may trace COVID-19 patients using mobile phone data

20 Mar 2020
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Irish data regulator racks up GDPR cases against Big Tech

24 Feb 2020

Most Popular

Mobile Phones

Microsoft patents a mobile device with a third screen

6 Apr 2020
video conferencing

Taiwan becomes first country to ban Zoom amid security concerns

8 Apr 2020
cyber security

Microsoft gobbles up corp.com domain to keep it from hackers

8 Apr 2020