Facebook to D.C. on Sec. 230: Regulate Us, Please

Facebook 1996
(Image credit: Facebook)

A Facebook ad airing frequently on cable and online these days features young people talking about all the wonderful things the Internet has done and is doing and how much it has changed in their lifetime, arguing that the last time internet regulations were updated was 25 years ago and suggesting it was time for action from Washington.

Facebook has been the poster-company in D.C. for Big Tech issues drawing bipartisan fire and pledges of a crackdown. And while it is more common for Silicon Valley to be talking about restoring regulations on ISPs, that is not the goal of this campaign, which asserts it is seeking regulations on it and other edge providers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has suggested, in Hill hearings and elsewhere, that it is time to update social media's Sec. 230 protection from civil liability for third party content, a protection that stems from the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

Companies generally don't invite regulation, unless they fear tougher regs if Washington is left to its own devices. That appears to be the case here.

On its Web site, Facebook says it is supporting "thoughtful changes" to Sec. 230," which it definitely prefers to eliminating the liability shield as some Republicans and Democrats, including candidate Joe Biden, have called for.

Read Also: Florida Law Cracks Down on Sec. 230

Facebook said it supports more transparency in content moderation, which means telling users how it is moderating content, and being held accountable for keeping illegal content, child exploitation, facilitating opioid abuse, off the platform. That is a far cry from eliminating the shield.

But Facebook is also trying to head off tougher regulations on political advertising, privacy and online safety, all issues in Congress' crosshairs. The company is essentially inviting legislation establishing standards for political advertising, data protection, and data portability.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.