Facebook (FB.Q) CEO Mark Zuckerberg rolled over and bared his throat in front of the U.S. government yesterday, begging them to lay out regulations for online content.
Facebook is on record complaining about their “immense responsibilities” as a major internet platform, and wants the government to do their job for them.
“We think there does need to be a regulatory standard for how to deal with content. We sit down with governments and we share, this is how our systems work, this is how content is reported, how it’s reviewed,” says Guy Rosen, vice president of integrity, who oversees the development of products that identify and remove abusive content on the site.
The question unanswered as to what kind of complicity a company like Facebook should bear towards the actions of its users.
The company has a hard time deciding what speech should be protected. For example, users regularly spend time in facebook jail for innocent infractions while complete assholes who are in direct violation of their ToS avoid punishment.
Facebook user Christine Read got a 30-day facebook prison sentence for censored gag dick pics in her private inbox, not even on the main board.
“They only removed one of the two photos which is funny because the second was a screen shot of the first,” Read said. “I had asked for a review but still did 30 days. Apparently it’s outsourced to India. Which is probably why my review was denied. I had censored one in the past (years ago) and on review they said it didn’t violate TOS.”
Read’s experience is unfortunately typical for Facebook, but it goes beyond the individual grievance to include larger, more systemic issues. For example, if the governments of France, Germany or Saudi Arabia decided they wanted to control content on Facebook, then Zuckerberg would be more than happy to roll over for them as well.
Meanwhile, in Myanmar, Facebook has been criticized for not doing more to stall the communications that ultimately led to the violence against Rohingya Muslims.
“The military exploited Facebook’s wide reach in Myanmar, where it is so broadly used that many of the country’s 18 million internet users confuse the Silicon Valley social media platform with the internet. Human rights groups blame the anti-Rohingya propaganda for inciting murders, rapes and the largest forced human migration in recent history.”
But when dealing with companies like Facebook with reputations for duplicity, it’s important to leave no stone unturned, and sure enough, there’s a thick layer of bullshit over Facebook’s latest prostration.
“In my experience as a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, large corporations do not call for greater government control as an act of charity. They do it to solidify their positions in the market and insulate themselves from competition,” said Brendan Carr, the commissioner of the FCC.
It’s typical of Facebook’s crooked management to attempt to leverage government into building a regulatory framework that would act as an economic moat. It’s a number’s game. Facebook has a small army of hired wonks performing content and security review, supplemented by lawyers and lobbyists to assist with the winding regulatory maze, which are resources that startups and smaller companies typically lack.
And this type of underhanded strategy has drawn the attention of some powerful people.
Facebook gets theirs
New York Attorney General Letitia James has put together a posse consisting of AGs from eight other states to analyzed the company’s industry dominance and determining whether or not their practices (like the one listed above) constitute an attempt at gaining monopoly control over the industry.
“We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising,” James said.
Criticism of their handling of privacy issues, misinformation and hate speech leading to genocide aside, the posse will take a pointed look to see if Facebook has any real competition given their acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp.
Long answer made short: they don’t.
Time to sharpen the knives.