Facebook Leans Into Its Looming Regulatory Battle

Yesterday, Facebook published a long blog post outlining how it believes it — and its competitors — ought to be regulated with regard to content moderation policy.

In a white paper titled, “Charting a Way Forward: Online Content Regulation,” the company poses a few big questions around what regulation looks like and proposes some guidelines for future regulations. For example:

[Question] Should regulation define which “harmful content” should be prohibited on the internet? Laws restricting speech are generally implemented by law enforcement officials and the courts. Internet content moderation is fundamentally different. Governments should create rules to address this complexity — that recognize user preferences and the variation among internet services, can be enforced at scale, and allow for flexibility across language, trends and context. 

[Suggested Guideline] Incentives. Ensuring accountability in companies’ content moderation systems and procedures will be the best way to create the incentives for companies to responsibly balance values like safety, privacy, and freedom of expression.

Facebook knows regulation is coming, and this seems to mark another, deeper step in its recent shift away from “we can handle this internally” towards “we need to be regulated… the way we think best.” 

For regulators, this is a tricky situation. You don’t want the proverbial fox to guard the henhouse, but there are serious questions as to whether federal regulators are sufficiently knowledgeable about the business of social media platforms to make effective regulations independently.