Tech

Facebook boss: Govts should get bigger role in policing the net

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has said governments and regulators should play "a more active role" in policing the internet and the standards of big online companies.

Mr Zuckerberg said firms such as his had huge responsibilities, deciding matters such as which content is harmful and what constitutes political advertising.

"If we were starting from scratch, we wouldn't ask companies to make these judgments alone," he said in an open letter.

"By updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what's best about it – the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things – while also protecting society from broader harms," said Facebook's CEO.

Facebook has been criticised for not doing enough to quickly take down harmful content and hate speech, for example after the New Zealand terror attack, and for not being transparent enough over who is paying for political ads.

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This week, however, it responded to some of that criticism by announcing a ban on content promoting white nationalism and separatism.It is also looking at restrictions on live video streaming.

Image: Facebook was criticised for not acting fast enough on videos of the Christchurch attacks

Mr Zuckerberg said new regulation was needed in four areas: harmful content; political advertising and protecting election interference; privacy and data protection; and "data portability".

He said an independent body would be created to appeal Facebook's decisions over what it deems harmful, and also called for internet companies to adopt a "more standardized approach" on the issue.

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"One idea is for third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and measure companies against those standards," said Mr Zuckerberg.

He urged all internet companies to publish quarterly reports on how effectively they remove such content.

Facebook beefed up its transparency on political messages last year after it emerged Russian groups had bought adverts during the 2016 US presidential election to try to sow discord.

The site now displays a message saying who paid for the ad, while anyone wishing to advertise has to prove their identity and location.

But Mr Zuckerberg said there was still room for laws that create internet-wide standards for verifying those who place political ads and messages.

"We believe legislation should be updated to reflect the reality of the threats and set standards for the whole industry," he said.

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