Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently published an op-ed in the Washington Post naming a role for government and regulation around four specific policies that continue to be concerns for users of Facebook and broader digital platforms. In two areas (privacy and political advertising) Zuckerberg reiterates Facebook’s agreement with previous legislative proposals, including parts of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and (although not named) concepts from the Honest Ads Act introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, and the late John McCain. In addition to these two topics, Zuckerberg also moves towards responding to calls from the public interest community for stronger content moderation of hateful content and for meaningful data portability to promote competition in a market that trends towards dominant platforms. While some may view yet another Facebook op-ed cynically, I believe this one should be welcomed.
Recently, Microsoft announced that NewsGuard, a service that has helped over 500 news sites improve their reporting and journalism methods and employs professional journalists to create consumer-friendly ratings of the trustworthiness of news sites, will be available by design, but not by default, in its Edge browser for iOS and Android. Although NewsGuard has been available as an extension for the desktop version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge for some time already, we believe that Microsoft’s latest move is a positive step in the increasingly important mobile news market.
The promotion of diverse viewpoints has been the cornerstone of United States media policy over the last 100 years. In November 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published an article that delineated the algorithm that Facebook will use to disincentivize hate speech. Although Zuckerberg’s proposal is a laudable step for content moderation, it may be neglecting the value of exposing people to diverse views and competing sources of news. As we debate moderation issues, platforms should consider not only the prohibition of hate speech, but also the affirmative exposure to broader ideas and perspectives. The Federal Communications Commission’s implementation of the diversity principle on radio and TV, explored below, offers some valuable lessons here.
This blog post is a sequel to Fix Media Not, Just Just Social Media Part -- 2, and part of our continuing series on platform regulation. Part 1 rejected the argument that the current crisis in journalism (both the crisis of the business of news and the crisis of trust in journalism) is strictly the fault of digital platforms. To the contrary, a series of bad business decisions starting in the 1990s contributed hugely to the financial collapse of traditional print media and the general “dumbing down” and partisan fragmentation in the news. Part 2 placed the current crisis of journalism in historical context, observing that for over a century the evolution of new communications technologies has time and again dramatically reshaped both the reporting side and the business side of journalism. Social media is no exception to this cycle, and coverage of Ferguson in 2014 provides valuable lessons for how the nature of reporting news can successfully leverage social media platforms in positive ways.
This blog post is part of our long series on platform competition, and a sequel to Part V: We Need to Fix the News Media, Not Just Social Media -- Part 1, which noted the decline in the quality of journalism and the increasing public distrust of traditional newspapers and broadcast news. While the following post acknowledges that there are real information problems triggered by social media platforms, including extreme headlines, hyper-partisanship, and radicalization, it proposes that the underlying distrust with the news industry should be addressed first. To do so, PK Senior Vice President Harold Feld calls for a policy intervention to repair the reputation of journalism and to adapt journalism to the digital age, while incorporating the positive power of platforms.