Facebook founder calls for government crackdown on ‘harmful content’ online, teases entry into news business

Mark Zuckerberg's idea for a 'more active role for regulators' runs counter to maximizing free speech.
Wed Apr 3, 2019 - 5:19 pm EST
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Shutterstock

April 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is doubling down on the social media giant’s self-appointed role as a content-quality crusader, calling on world governments to take a more active role in policing “harmful content” on the internet as well as hinting at the company personally aggregating “high quality news.”

In a March 30 Washington Post op-ed, Zuckerberg laid out his vision for a “more active role for governments and regulators” in preserving the internet’s “the freedom for people to express themselves” while at the same time “protecting society from broader harms.” Among the areas he sees as needing “new rules” is “harmful content.”

“Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree,” Zuckerberg claimed, noting that Facebook is working on an independent oversight body that will supposedly review appeals to its content moderation decisions. But his call for a “more standardized approach” to ensuring tech companies are “accountable for enforcing standards on harmful content” suggests an alternative that could potentially be far more dangerous.

“One idea is for third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and to measure companies against those standards,” he said. “Regulation could set baselines for what’s prohibited and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum.” While the op-ed is light on specific details, the thrust of Zuckerberg’s arguments – setting minimums of what companies must censor rather than limiting what they can censor – runs in the opposite direction of government’s traditional role of maximizing free speech.

“What Zuckerberg’s plan does is undermine competition,” The Federalist’s David Harsanyi warmed. “If a private company like Facebook sets speech codes that are too stifling for users, another innovator will jump into the gap and create a platform that isn’t,” but when “government sets a ‘baseline’ for what’s acceptable for all websites, there’s no longer competition for open debate.”

“Moreover, Zuckerberg wants to institute these plans in ‘common global framework,’” he noted. “Well, Vladimir Putin recently signed a bill that makes it a crime to ‘disrespect’ the state and spread ‘fake news.’ France, who Zuckerberg says he is already working with, has passed hate-speech laws that allow the banning of political content. As do many other nations, including Canada. And let’s not forget fully authoritarian nations like China.”

On Monday, Zuckerberg also discussed his desire for Facebook to be even more proactive about defining and providing what it considers “quality” news, Cnet reported.

"We talked about the role quality journalism plays in building informed communities, and the principles Facebook should use for building a news tab to surface more high quality news, including the business model and ecosystem to support it," he said. Among the ideas currently being consideration is for Facebook to add a “high quality news” section to the website, with the support of paid publishers and editors hired to select items from “broadly trusted” media outlets.

The plans are an expansion of Facebook’s self-appointed role as an arbiter of “trustworthy” news organizations. While they may be music to the progressives with whom Facebook’s political values align, the social media giant is among the last arbiters of trustworthiness conservatives would trust, citing a long series of instances of Facebook suppressing content that dissents from left-wing orthodoxy.

Most recently, Facebook came under fire for blocking objective informational links about abortion from the American Pregnancy Association’s website, as well as an article by The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher discussing a fake hate crime orchestrated by actor Jussie Smollett. Last month, a Project Veritas investigation detailed how Facebook “deboosts” traffic to several mainstream conservative sites.

  big tech, censorship, facebook, free speech, journalism, mark zuckerberg, media, online censorship, social media, social media censorship

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