Facing more scrutiny for privacy issues, social media titan Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is calling for more outside regulation in several areas in which the social media site has run into problems over the past few years: harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability.
“Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” he wrote. “These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”
More regulation over what constitutes harmful content could “set a baseline” for what is prohibited and require companies to “build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum,” he wrote.
He said privacy rules such as the General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect in Europe last year, should be adopted elsewhere in the world.
The piece comes days after Facebook was criticized when a shooting rampage in New Zealand that killed 50 people was broadcast live on the site. It said Thursday it was extending a ban on hate speech to white nationalists.
Zuckerberg and others are “beginning to realize the wild, wild West of the Internet of the past, those days are gone,” said Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies. “And the Internet and especially social media sites now need to be looked at closer by government entities.”
Facebook has weathered more than two years of turbulence for repeated privacy lapses, spreading disinformation, allowing Russian agents to conduct targeted propaganda campaigns and a rising tide of hate speech and abuse. Zuckerberg submitted to two days of grilling on Capitol Hill last April.
Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said he was shifting the company’s focus to messaging services designed to serve as fortresses of privacy.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Mysterious Disappearing Facebook Posts
Facebook says some of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s posts on the social media site were deleted due to technical errors.
The company says it is unclear which posts were deleted. Facebook says the posts were mistakenly deleted a few years ago and the work required to restore them was extensive and might not have worked.
The deleted posts were first reported by Business Insider. All posts from 2007 and 2008 have been deleted, according to the report.
The way Facebook shares company information has changed over the years. It introduced its current “Newsroom” page in 2014 and shares and archives major company announcements there.
Facebook Removes Fake Philippine’s Accounts
Facebook says it has removed 200 pages, groups and accounts linked to Nic Gabunada, reportedly the former social media manager of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, for misleading people.
The social network says it took down the accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” the term it uses to describe accounts that work together to mask who is behind them and what their purpose is. In the past, Facebook has removed accounts linked to Russia, Iran and other countries for trying to wreak political havoc or influence elections in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The accounts and posts in question posted about elections, alleged misconduct by political candidates and local news. Facebook says they tried to hide their identity but were linked to a network organized by Gabunada.
Facebook Slapped With Housing Discrimination Charges By U.S.
The federal government charged Facebook with high-tech housing discrimination Thursday for allegedly allowing landlords and real estate brokers to systematically exclude groups such as non-Christians, immigrants and minorities from seeing ads for houses and apartments.
The civil charges filed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development could cost the social network millions of dollars in penalties. But more than that, they strike at the heart of Facebook’s business model — its vaunted ability to deliver ads with surgical precision to certain groups of people and not others.
“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”
In a statement, Facebook expressed surprise over the charges, saying it has been working with HUD to address its concerns and has taken steps to prevent discrimination, including eliminating thousands of ad-targeting options last year that could be misused by advertisers.
Just last week, Facebook agreed to overhaul its targeting system and abandon some of the practices singled out by HUD to prevent discrimination, not just in housing listings but in credit and employment ads as well. The move was part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union and other activists.
“We’re disappointed by today’s developments, but we’ll continue working with civil rights experts on these issues,” the company said.
The HUD charges were seen as a possible prelude to a wider regulatory crackdown on the digital advertising industry, which is dominated by Facebook and Google. And the case was yet another blow to Facebook, which has come under siege from lawmakers, regulators and activists and is under investigation in the U.S. and Europe over its data and privacy practices.
HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said the agency has reached out to Google and Twitter to “better understand their advertising practices.” But he said neither is currently under investigation. Twitter says it doesn’t allow discriminatory advertising, while Google says its policies prohibit targeting ads based on sensitive categories such as race, ethnicity and religious beliefs.
Google, in particular, has ad-targeting options similar to Facebook’s.
The technology at the center of the clash with HUD has helped make Facebook rich, with annual revenue of close to $56 billion. Facebook gathers enormous amounts of data on what users read and like and who their friends are, and it uses that information to help advertisers and others direct their messages to exactly the crowd they want to reach.
HUD said Facebook is allowing advertisers to practice a sort of high-tech form of red-lining by excluding people in entire neighborhoods or ZIP codes from seeing their ads. The company was accused, too, of giving advertisers the option of showing ads only to men or only to women.
Facebook also allegedly allowed advertisers to exclude parents; those who are non-American-born; non-Christians; and those interested in Hispanic culture, “deaf culture,” accessibility for the disabled, countries like Honduras or Somalia, or a variety of other topics.
The case will be heard by an administration law judge unless HUD or Facebook decides to move it to federal court.
“The nature of their business model is advertising and targeted advertising, so that is a slippery slope. That is their business model,” said Dan Ives, an industry analyst with Wedbush Securities. “The government launched this missile and caught many in the industry by surprise.”
Ives said the move may mean U.S. regulators are taking broader aim at the digital advertising market. “This is a clear shot across the bow for Facebook and others,” he said.
Galen Sherwin of the ACLU likewise warned: “All the online platforms should be paying close attention to these lawsuits and taking a hard look at their own advertising platforms.”
Facebook is already under fire for allowing fake Russian accounts to buy ads targeting U.S. users and sow political discord during the 2016 presidential election. The company has also been criticized for allowing organizations to target groups of people identified as “Jew-haters” and Nazi sympathizers.
HUD brought an initial complaint against Facebook in August. Facebook said in its statement that it was “eager to find a solution” but that HUD “insisted on access to sensitive information — like user data — without adequate safeguards.”
In its settlement with the ACLU and others, Facebook said it will no longer allow housing, employment or credit ads that target people by age, gender or ZIP code. It said it will also limit other targeting options so that these ads don’t exclude people on the basis of race, ethnicity and other legally protected categories, including sexual orientation.
“Unless and until HUD can verify that there is an end of the discriminatory practices, we still have a responsibility to the American people,” said Raffi Williams, deputy assistant HUD secretary.