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Does Facebook Need a Sec'y of State?

Does Facebook Need a Sec'y of State?

Last week, all eyes were on Facebook’s problems in the United States, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about privacy lapses and election meddling. But as fellow Signalista @kevinallison points out, only a small minority of the social network’s 2 billion-plus monthly active users are American.


That means Facebook has to navigate an increasingly patchwork world of national regulations and popular expectations about privacy and content. And while building community is Zuck’s strong suit, diplomacy certainly isn’t. Here’s Kevin’s non-exhaustive list of Facebook’s other big foreign flaps at the moment.

Europe: The EU is already way ahead of the US on regulation. Firm privacy laws are about to get even stricter next month, imposing heavy fines on companies that mistreat users’ data. In addition, Facebook faces national-level German and UK investigations into the Cambridge Analytica fiasco. Topping it all off, a US-EU data sharing agreements that Facebook relies on to store data is on increasingly shaky legal ground.

Indonesia: The world’s fourth most populous country recently threatened to ban Facebook unless the company gets a handle on privacy and “fake news.” The government may be worried in particular about squelching fake accusations about President Joko Widodo’s alleged communist sympathies ahead of next year’s elections. Either way, Zuckerberg’s got a big content management problem in a huge market.

Myanmar: Facebook has come under fire from both UN investigators and local activists for serving as a platform for anti-Muslim hate speech that has helped fuel genocidal violence against the country’s Rohingya minority. A personal apology from Zuck (his specialty!) has done little to quell the uproar.

Cambodia: Facebook is coping with allegations from an exiled opposition leader that strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen has used the social network (where he somehow has amassed nearly twice as many followers as Cambodia has people) to “deceive Cambodia’s electorate and to commit human rights abuses,” as part of a broader crackdown on the political opposition and media.

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It's been four days since Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, died in a hail of bullets on a highway near Tehran. Iran has plausibly blamed Israel for the killing, but more than that, not much is known credibly or in detail.

This is hardly the first time that an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated in an operation that has a whiff of Mossad about it. But Fakhrizadeh's prominence — he is widely regarded as the father of the Iranian nuclear program — as well as the timing of the killing, just six weeks from the inauguration of a new American president, make it a particularly big deal. Not least because an operation this sensitive would almost certainly have required a US sign-off.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody. Ian Bremmer here, have your quick take. Plenty going on this week. I could of course talk about all these new Biden appointees, but frankly, there's not that much that surprising there. Moderate, lots of expertise, not very controversial, almost all of which could get through a Republican controlled Senate, presuming that markets are going to be reasonably happy, Progressive's in the Democratic party somewhat less so. But no, the big news right now internationally, certainly about Iran. The Iranians started this year with the assassination by the United States of their defense leader, Qasem Soleimani. Everyone was worried about war. Now, closing the year with the assassination of the head of their nuclear program and historically the head of their nuclear weapons program.

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Joe Biden has had one of the longest political careers in American history, but his most important act is yet to come. Can decades of experience in Washington prepare him to lead the most divided America since the end of the Civil War?

Watch the GZERO World episode: What you still may not know about Joe


Ethiopia on the brink: After ethnic tensions between Ethiopia's federal government and separatist forces in the northern Tigray region erupted into a full-blown armed conflict in recent weeks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his forces had taken control of Tigray's capital on Saturday and declared victory. But the fugitive Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael quickly called Abiy's bluff, saying the fighting is raging on, and demanded Abiy withdraw his forces. Gebremichael accused Abiy of launching "a genocidal campaign" that has displaced 1 million people, with thousands fleeing to neighboring Sudan, creating a humanitarian catastrophe. The Tigray, who make up about five percent of Ethiopia's population, are fighting for self-determination, but Abiy's government has repeatedly rejected invitations to discuss the issue, accusing the coalition led by Gebremichael's Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of "instigating clashes along ethnic and religious lines." As the two sides dig in their heels, Ethiopia faces the risk of a civil war that could threaten the stability of the entire Horn of Africa.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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