Zuckerberg Urges EU to Outpace Chinese Model and Push Digital Platforms Regulations Based on Western Sets of Values

News and Analysis

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has called on the European Commission (EC) to boost the development and implementation of a framework for the regulation of online platforms to promote Western sets of values and leave the Chinese model behind.

Zuckerberg delivered his comments during a conversation with Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market, on May 18. The framework he referred to is the European Union Digital Services Act expected to be issued later this year. The document contains a set of safety rules for digital platforms, services, and products.

Collaboration Between Digital Platforms and Governments Is Needed

The new regulations will ostensibly affect digital advertising, online harm issues, including hate speech, and copyright infringement, among other things. The document suggests that “algorithms for automated filtering technologies” should be considered for better “transparency and accountability.”

Zuckerberg said that Facebook has identified around 20 categories of harmful content which it is able to track, including hate speech, misinformation, child exploitation, terrorism, incitement of violence, and other kinds of violent content. “It really helps to have the collaboration with the intelligence community in different governments, so you can share intelligence on the different threats that we’re seeing,” he noted.

Two Regulation Models With Different Sets of Values

Zuckerberg went on pointing out the emergence of two very different frameworks underpinned by very different sets of rules—a model coming from countries like China and a model coming from Western countries that is more democratic. According to the Facebook founder, the Chinese model of online governance gives the government more control over different things. He said:

“It might be attractive in different ways to force everyone to localize data and make it that, basically, you don’t have to respect human rights quite as much. I just think that that’s really dangerous and I worry about that kind of model spreading to other countries. I think the best antidote to that is having a clear regulatory framework that comes out of Western democratic countries.”

Zuckerberg suggested that the framework developed by Western countries could become a standard around the world.

Combating Illegal Content and Government-Backed Hacking Groups

Zuckerberg’s comments came in the wake of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s joint statement, where they accused China of sponsoring and operating groups of hackers to compromise United States-based laboratories conducting COVID-19-related research.

“These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research,” the statement said.

Moreover, tech giant Google detected more than a dozen of state-backed hacking groups using the coronavirus outbreak as cover for developing phishing emails and distributing malware, in late April. The hackers lured users to click malicious links and download files.

Also, Google’s findings discovered that attackers impersonated health organizations in an attempt to trick people into downloading malware.

As the EC indicated, “as the amount of digital content available on the Internet grows, current arrangements are likely to be increasingly tested. It is not always easy to define the limits on what intermediaries can do with the content that they transmit, store or host before losing the possibility to benefit from the exemptions from liability set out in the e-Commerce Directive.”

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