Don't cook a new beast with old recipes
5 days ago on 22 May, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of a panel of EU Members of Parliament. Below are my takes on this hearing. I know the panel does not speak from one voice, but for the sake of simplicity I refer to them as "The Panel", even when my takeaway singles out a question from a specific person/country.
Facebook challenges established views on fundamental subjects such as privacy, free speech, and the inner workings of democracy. A citizen democratic debate is needed to answer these fundamental questions. Asking Facebook to behave responsibly without having defined (In law) what that means is unfair.
The panel seems ill-prepared to deal with Facebook, and their questions persistently reveal their misunderstanding of how the platform works (In the same way questions at the US congressional hearing did). They ask politically loaded questions, and end up being lectured on technology 101.
The panel displays dutiful and admirable care for privacy and free speech, but at the same time asks Facebook to better regulate fake accounts, fake news and hate speech. I am left with the impression they are asking for black and white policies in a situation that is evidently 1 billion shades of multicolor...
The panel seem to express amazement at the fact that Facebook struggles to self regulate. Since when are businesses expected to make laws?
Mr Zuckerberg has mastered the art of controlling the conversation. As well he should, he is in this way exactly similar to any other CEO of a publicly listed business. I personally find him rather candid...
The questions raised by Facebook are new. This is a beast around which new rules will need to be invented. Mr Zuckerberg seems to propose to be part of this discussion, and I find this encouraging. Because cooking that beast with old recipes cannot work, I'm afraid.
European Parliament hearing, Sky News, 22 May 2018.
US Congressional hearing, CNBC, 10 April 2018