Please, regulate me!
That was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s message to Congress recently.
“Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree,” he wrote in an op-ed. “(W)e shouldn’t make so many important decisions…on our own.”
It sounds so self-sacrificing.
But give me a break. Big companies use regulation to their advantage.
His smaller competitors can’t afford the squads of “compliance officers” that Facebook employs.
“You, as a company, welcome regulation?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked Zuckerberg during a congressional hearing.
“If it’s the right regulation, then yes,” replied the CEO.
“Would you work with us in terms of what regulations you think are necessary in your industry?”
“Absolutely,” replied Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg’s no dope. He sees which way the wind is blowing. He issued his plea to be regulated after receiving months of criticism from politicians.
If he cooperates early and enthusiastically, Facebook is likely to get to work with the regulators to shape the rules.
This is sad for two reasons.
One, the First Amendment says Congress “shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” I’d think Zuckerberg would know that, but no, he called for government to “require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum.”
Currently, his own website is a wonderful forum for all kinds of useful speech. There’s hateful speech, too, but it’s the private company’s job to decide whether to police that, not government’s.
The second reason Facebook working with regulators is sad is that if anyone should fight for permissionless, unregulated innovation, it should be people like Mark Zuckerberg.
It’s no accident that the amazing wealth creation that brought us Facebook, Google, Instagram, Microsoft, Amazon, etc., happened in the two big metropolitan areas farthest from Washington, D.C.
As Yaron Brook, chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute, says: “Microsoft in the early 1990s was the largest company in the world, incredibly successful. They spent exactly zero dollars on lobbying, on cronyism, on lawyers. They had no presence in Washington, D.C.—not a single lawyer, not a single building.”