(Sincere or not…) Answer of the Week (Class 11): “I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

By the time¬† end of term rolled around, everyone in our course surely was feeling a bit too familiar with our oft-repeated theme/query “To regulate or not to regulate?”. Lucky for us then that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has taken it upon himself to answer the question, and perhaps in an unexpected way at that. Here is the article in which he call for Facebook (and his competitors) to be regulated.

Lots of questions flow from this editorial, some of which were touched on in our final class. Two questions in particular deserve to be highlighted:

  1. Why is Zuckerberg waiving a barely conditional white flag to regulation, including seemingly calling for government censorship of content? &
  2. Why is he throwing his competitors under the same bus he is throwing himself under?

First, the counterpoint – set out by the President (and former General Counsel) of Microsoft, Brad Smith. In particular note how quickly Smith defends against something left out of Zuckerberg’s invitation to regulation, the proposal that big tech should be broken up on anti-trust grounds (most prominently identified with U.S. Presidential Candidate and former Harvard Law Professor, Senator Elizabeth Warren). Here is the article regarding Microsoft’s perspective…

But as raised in our final class, might Zuckerberg be trying to be too clever by half (some including me might add the word “again”)? The faux cleverness would be in the knowledge that regulation, generally speaking, has the impact of slowing down free market effects. If indeed Facebook’s business is failing faster than the Las Vegas Golden Knights with a five minute major penalty against them, then calling for regulation could be nothing more than a survival gambit. The following article by Mike Masnick at techdirt expressly calls out that scenario…

But ultimately what makes me doubt Zuckerberg and his motives (in addition to how he was characterized in the film The Social Network, which seems IMHO to have been vindicated and borne out by his actions at Facebook ad infinitem) is the following Ted Talk. It paints an extraordinarily disturbing picture of actions that appear to deserve legal consequences so beyond the issue of regulation that it makes one wonder if Zuckerberg is attempting to “plea-bargain” to regulation in the hopes of mitigating a way out of far more severe and more personal legal consequences?

There are a couple of fascinating postscripts to the TedTalk which seem to reinforce what appears to be FaceBook’s bad faith, and at the very least make one wonder about the sophistication and/or talent of their P.R. people.

The first is a tweet from Carole Cadwalladr and the video in it…

The second is an article from the Guardian offering additional insights including that a very short time after stepping off the stage Ms. Cadwalladr learned that Facebook had lodged a complaint and was demanding her script. Actually kind of funny because you’d think Facebook’s people had recorded the event and knew enough about technology to easily¬† generate a script, but apparently not, LOL….

Jon

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