Mark Zuckerberg has been on a road trip of sorts to promote Facebook's idea for how to regulate the tech industry. Interestingly, most of those regulations conveniently match Facebook's practices, meaning they would have no tangible effect on how the company operates.
Facebook has released a white paper on the subject, which includes steps the company believes governments should take regarding user privacy, stating that the company has "therefore joined the call for new regulatory frameworks for online content."
The company's proposal concludes by essentially positioning itself as the good guy in conversations around privacy and regulation:
"We hope that this paper contributes to the ongoing conversations among policymakers and other stakeholders. These are challenging issues, and sustainable solutions will require collaboration. As we learn more from interacting with experts and refining our approach to content moderation, our thinking about the best ways to regulate will continue to evolve. We welcome feedback on the issues discussed in this paper."
Reuters is reporting that the European Union (EU) has already shared its feedback and that it isn't interested at all in Facebook's perspective on the matter. EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton told Reuters that "It's not for us to adapt to this company, it's for this company to adapt to us,"
This a bit of a "pot calling the kettle black" moment, with Facebook, arguably the company most in need of regulation, proposing said regulation in a way that essentially exempts it from any further regulation. (Yes, I just used that word far too many times in one sentence, if only to stress how absurd the entire thing really is.)
Of course, in a way, it's perfectly on brand for Facebook and Zuckerberg. I wrote last month about Facebook's assertion that everything it does is built with "privacy by design." When a representative from the company said that phrase out loud, the audience actually laughed.
No one outside of Facebook believes the company does anything with privacy by design. Instead, everything it does seems to be with only one design: profit. I mean, to its credit, it's very good at making those profit as the world's second-largest advertising platform, behind only Google.
And it's those profits that have Facebook's CEO traveling across the globe to steer the conversation around regulation. Zuckerberg doesn't really want tech companies to be regulated, but if it's going to happen, he wants to set the terms. And those terms are going to essentially outline exactly how Facebook already behaves, and force other companies to play by its rules.
Tech companies are facing increased scrutiny on several fronts, including how they handle personal data of users, as well as anti-competition concerns. In many cases, Facebook has been at the top of the list of targets for investigation and regulation.
Just in the past year, the company agreed to a $5 billion settlement over privacy violations, and another $550 million settlement with Illinois residents to end a class-action lawsuit over its facial-recognition technology.
I should be fair and mention that Zuckeberg's road trip is exactly what any leader should do when faced with the level of scrutiny facing Facebook. I'm not convinced it will work, but if you're going to have to play by a set of rules, you might as well try to write them yourself.