Says social media need help with content call, privacy, political ads

Mark Zuckerberg said the government needs to step in to regulate edge providers like his own Facebook, so long as they are applied evenhandedly across the space.

"I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability," he said in a Facebook post.

Facebook has been under intense scrutiny in Washington over the Cambridge Analytica data sharing fiasco and general angst about the size and power of social media and its exemption from liability (responsibility) for the content posted on its platforms.

Zuckerberg, who testified before Congress last fall, said he agrees with lawmakers that social media have too much power of speech. "I've come to believe that we shouldn't make so many important decisions about speech on our own," he said. That is why Facebook is creating an independent body that will review appeals of those content decisions.

But he also says the government could set baseline standards for prohibited speech "and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum."

That "bare minimum" could still leave some wiggle room.

Zuckerberg said he would welcome government help in weeding out political ads that aren't what they seem. Russian meddling with the election through bogus sites meant to foment racial tensions, for example.

"[Deciding whether an ad is political isn't always straightforward," Zuckerberg said. "Our systems would be more effective if regulation created common standards for verifying political actors."

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On privacy, Zuckerberg put in a plug for Europe's General Data Protection Regulation. "New privacy regulation in the United States and around the world should build on the protections GDPR provides. It should protect your right to choose how your information is used - while enabling companies to use information for safety purposes and to provide services," he said. He also put in a plug for harmonized privacy regulation rather then regs that vary by country or state.

Many Democrats are concerned that federal privacy legislation could preempt stronger state regs.

Zuckerberg suggested Facebook is already taking countermeasures. "We've built advanced systems for finding harmful content, stopping election interference and making ads more transparent," he said. "But there is bipartisan momentum for federal privacy regs, so it makes sense for Facebook to try and shape the debate on what that should entail.

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Edge regs wouldn't exactly be "sleeves off the vest," but rather an attempt to tailor a suit you would be required to wear to make sure you aren't straightjacketed.

[P]eople shouldn't have to rely on individual companies addressing these issues by themselves," he said. "We should have a broader debate about what we want as a society and how regulation can help."

“We agree with Mark Zuckerberg that online platforms need to do much more to address the spread of hatred across their networks," said Free Press senior policy counsel Carmen Scurato. "The good news is that some companies have taken concrete efforts to curb hateful activities on their websites and services. But it’s time to move from words to action: to invest the time and effort it takes to listen to the concerns of people that online extremism most harms.

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