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Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook and the internet need regulating

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg says the internet does need regulating. Credit: AP

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has set out how he believes the social network and the internet should be regulated.

The firm’s founder and chief executive said there is a need for governments and regulators to have “a more active role”.

Mr Zuckerberg said he believes new regulation is needed in four areas – harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.

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In an op-ed published online in the Washington Post and on his own Facebook page, Mr Zuckerberg said: “Every day we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyber attacks.

“These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.

“I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators. By updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what’s best about it – the freedom for people to express themselves and for 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."

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been under pressure to better monitor what kind of content is posted on Facebook. Credit: AP

Mr Zuckerberg said legislation is important for “protecting elections” and said it should be “updated”, adding that Facebook has already made “significant changes around political ads”.

With the European Union elections due to take place in May, Facebook has already said any advertisers in the EU will undergo tighter checks, which will require documents confirming their identity and location to be submitted, amid fears of foreign interference.

The company said all adverts relating to politics and issues on both Facebook and Instagram in the EU must be clearly labelled, including who funded the advert.

Any advertising not properly registered will be blocked from mid-April, the social network warned.

“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 nonstop. 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,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote.

Fake news, harmful content and privacy breaches have all been hot topics. Credit: PA

On the subject of harmful content, he said they continually review their policies with experts, but adds “at our scale we’ll always make mistakes and decisions that people disagree with”.

He wrote: “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.”

The Facebook boss said internet companies “should be accountable for enforcing standards on harmful content”, adding: “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.”

Mr Zuckerberg said Facebook already publishes transparency reports on how effectively it is removing harmful content, and said he believes every major internet service should do this quarterly, “because it’s just as important as financial reporting”.

He said effective privacy and data protection needs a “globally harmonised framework”, adding: ” I believe it would be good for the Internet if more countries adopted regulation such as GDPR as a common framework.”

Zuckerberg found himself before Congress last year over data privacy breaches. Credit: AP

On data portability, Mr Zuckerberg wrote: “If you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another. This gives people choice and enables developers to innovate and compete.”

He said this “requires clear rules about who’s responsible for protecting information when it moves between services”.

In conclusion, Mr Zuckerberg wrote: “I believe Facebook has a responsibility to help address these issues, and I’m looking forward to discussing them with lawmakers around the world.”

He added: “The rules governing the internet allowed a generation of entrepreneurs to build services that changed the world and created a lot of value in people’s lives.

“It’s time to update these rules to define clear responsibilities for people, companies and governments going forward.”