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Facebook Publishes A Standardized Online Content Regulation Whitepaper

Time to decide what is and isn’t acceptable on The Social Network

Facebook Publishes A Standardized Online Content Regulation Whitepaper

Facebook’s views on web content regulation has slowly evolved over the past few years.

Going back 3 years, in 2017 there was the Cambridge Analytica scandal and various other concerns causing Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple to increase their spending on lobbyists.

This was a response in order to combat proposals from US senators in regards to increased internet regulations as the social media platforms preferred to maintain their own regulatory systems and govern their own processes as they saw fit.

“I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, told CNN in 2018. In 2019 Zuckerberg published and opinion piece in The Washington Post, in which he called for “new rules” for the internet and outlined the specific case for more definitive government regulation, according to Social Media Today.

“I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators,” Zuckerberg said in The Washington Post.

“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.”

Facebook turned a whole 180 degrees as they started off with “we don’t want any more government interference” to “we need government oversight to implement universal safety controls, and ensure there’s a level playing field for all platforms working to police web content,” according to Social Media Today.

Given the various legal challenges and official policies that are being put in place globally in order to hold Facebook and other social media platforms more accountable for the content available. There are additional costs that come with such rules as it makes sense that Facebook would want to clarify a baseline while putting on a third party to dictate what is acceptable and what isn’t in order to ship the blame away from the team.

This week, Facebook has published a new whitepaper which outlines key questions that need to be acknowledged in order to implement universal content regulation for web entities and to build a strategic framework for those rules moving forward.

“Since the invention of the printing press, developments in communications technology have always been met with calls for state action,” as mentioned in the paper. “In the case of internet companies, however, it is uniquely challenging to develop regulation to ensure accountability.”

According to Social Media Today, the whitepaper aims to address four key questions which Facebook says underpin the broader debate:

• How can content regulation best achieve the goal of reducing harmful speech while preserving free expression? By requiring systems such as user-friendly channels for reporting content or external oversight of policies or enforcement decisions, and by requiring procedures such as periodic public reporting of enforcement data, regulation could provide governments and individuals the information they need to accurately judge social media companies’ efforts.

• How can regulations enhance the accountability of internet platforms? Regulators could consider certain requirements for companies, such as publishing their content standards, consulting with stakeholders when making significant changes to standards, or creating a channel for users to appeal a company’s content removal or non-removal decision.

• Should regulation require internet companies to meet certain performance targets? Companies could be incentivized to meet specific targets such as keeping the prevalence of violating content below some agreed threshold.

• Should regulation define which “harmful content” should be prohibited on the internet? Laws restricting speech are generally implemented by law enforcement officials and the courts. Internet content moderation is fundamentally different. Governments should create rules to address this complexity — that recognize user preferences and the variation among internet services, can be enforced at scale, and allow for flexibility across language, trends and context.

Facebook is saying that there are content regulations in place for all forms of media and there should be similar regulations placed for web entities in order to lessen the burden on social media platforms in deciding what is and isn’t acceptable on their own.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

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