The European Union’s tech chief Thierry Breton threatened that Facebook will face more regulation if Mark Zuckerberg fails to assuage concerns about business practices, including around market power.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, online platforms had already significantly changed the ways we work, we interact, we buy and we learn. The crisis has accelerated this trend. In a post-COVID world, the benefits, opportunities and risks generated by online platforms are bigger than ever. Europe is trying to seize the benefits and opportunities while mitigating the risks.
As Brussels eagerly awaits the European Commission’s proposals for new rules for the digital age, Thierry Breton and Mark Zuckerberg discussed live on Youtube the role and responsibilities of online platforms during the COVID-19 crisis management and future recovery stage. They debated the possible longer-term impact of the pandemic on the relationship between online platforms and governments, and what future governance and collaboration could look like.
The debate was hosted by CERRE, the Center on Regulation in Europe.
“At the end of the day, if we cannot find a way, we will regulate, of course,” Breton said, adding later that “it will be Mark that will be responsible, nobody else.”
Facebook been battling violent hate speech, disinformation and fraudulent posts related to the pandemic on its sites, while advertising revenue softens as a result of the crisis.
“I don’t think there’s a question there’s going to be regulation. I think the question is whose framework is going to win around the world,” Zuckerberg said, adding he “worries” that less democratic models for regulating technology, like China’s, could spread to other countries.
“The best antidote to that is having a clear regulatory framework that comes out of Western democratic countries that becomes a standard around the world,” he said, adding “we have a joint responsibility to help develop this.”
The EU’s sweeping laws on privacy forced Facebook, Google and others to change how they collect user data and influenced other countries to follow suit.
“If you understand our values, then you understand how you need to behave,” Breton said in response to Zuckerberg’s comment, adding that it required the company to not shut out rivals, and “be careful with democracy, be careful with disinformation.”
The Facebook chief has previously called for more regulation of the internet -- including around election integrity, harmful content and privacy -- which in turn has raised questions around the sincerity of his efforts.