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.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

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