Hear that, Mark Zuckerberg? Regulation of big tech and data sites like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter has been a hot topic since 2016 when Facebook troll accounts and shady online advertising became a huge factor in the American election. While the United States appears to be dragging its heels on the whole thing, a number of other countries, including Canada, have decided it’s time Facebook got some government oversight.
“We recognize that self-regulation is not yielding the results that societies are expecting these companies to deliver,” Gould said. Social media companies have been left almost entirely to their own devices since they came into existence, with the government trusting them to enforce their own codes of conduct with the public’s interests in mind. If we’ve learned anything over the past two years, it’s that these companies haven’t been doing that.
Between the data mining schemes, hate speech, radicalization, fake news stories and more going on online, it’s about time the government stepped in for the good of its citizenry.
“We are actively talking to partners around the world. We’re actively talking to experts here in Canada as well in terms of what can be done,” Gould said. “And I remain open to many different options as to how we can ensure better behaviour.”
Gould’s “partners around the world” include Australia and the U.K. in particular, which have both made legislative moves to regulate, but the Buzzfeed/Star report notes that oversight of tech and social media companies needs to be done very carefully for fear of infringing on freedom of speech — something that can be awfully and confusingly subjective.
In Russia, for example, the government passed a law last month that will slap fines on “online news outlets and users that spread ‘fake news.'” Seems like a good step toward limiting the spread of false information, but the law also applies to journalism that “disrespects” the Russian government. Now, that is censorship.
Mark Zuckerberg himself made the case for government oversight of the internet in a column for the Washington Post last week.
“I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators,” he writes. “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.”
Zuck outlines “harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability” as the four areas which need regulation.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 4, 2019
Without delving into intent and whether this was a PR move, Zuckerberg makes a good point.
And he might actually be delivering on it with his own site. Just this week, Facebook banned six Canadian pages over its extremism and hate speech policy. Those accounts include far-right former Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy, white nationalist Kevin Goudreau, alt-right group Soldiers of Odin and the Canadian Nationalist Front.
With an upcoming federal election, this is a good start.