Facebook Inc. co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is effectively begging for U.S. regulators to step in and give clear policies for internet data privacy and harmful content, a worthy request that still could be self-serving.
Facebook FB, -0.65% reported first-quarter earnings that were better than expected Wednesday, excluding the $3 billion it set aide to pay for an expected fine from the Federal Trade Commission. During the company’s call with investors, Zuckerberg once again called on the U.S. government to step in and regulate certain areas for internet companies, after almost two years of constant scandals, many involving the misuse of its user data.
In March, Zuckerberg wrote an editorial in the Washington Post, in which he outlined four areas where regulation is needed: harmful content, election protection, privacy and data protection, and data portability. On Wednesday’s conference call, Zuckerberg said that the reason he wrote the editorial was because these are areas where it “doesn’t feel right for a private company to make such important policy decisions by ourselves.”
“If the rules for the internet were being written from scratch today, I don’t think people would want private companies to be making so many decisions around speech, elections and data privacy without a more robust democratic process,” he said.
Zuckerberg also noted on the call that he has been trying to guide the frameworks, when he can.
“One of the things that I have been focused on is trying to help develop global frameworks where possible, but the challenge, of course, with that is that except in a limited number of cases, regulation typically isn’t global. It’s national,” he said. “So I would expect that we’ll see different countries make progress on different time frames.”
Previously from Therese: Facebook crumbles around its lonely king
Zuckerberg is clearly trying to guide the government to help address situations that he feels Facebook can’t really succeed at anymore, such as the battle against harmful content on its platform. In areas that he does feel confident he can act, such as privacy and data protection, he is hoping to lead the way, and leave the rest up to the government.
So far, Facebook has been a Teflon company, with user growth, revenue and profit continuing to be strong despite a multitude of scandals. Nothing is certain though, especially with Facebook admitting that it is preparing for slower growth, FTC fines that have yet to be announced and government regulation.
On that last point, legislators should heed Zuckerberg’s call. Even though Zuckerberg is trying to guide regulators where they would be of most use to him, he is still right that they should be acting to establish new rules for him to play by.
Want this type of analysis sent to your inbox? Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free MarketWatch First Takes newsletter. Sign up here.