Smart regulation can deliver a better internet for all Australians

Australia

The great technological acceleration of recent times has transformed nearly every aspect of our lives – how we communicate, how we work, how we do business and how we get our news. But technology itself is not inherently good or bad – it can be put to good or bad uses by good or bad people. The printing press gave us the beauty of Twelfth Night and the hatred of Mein Kampf. The radio brought music into the living rooms of millions, and it gave dictators a captive audience for their propaganda.

Nick Clegg, Facebook's head of global policy and communications.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of global policy and communications. Credit:AP

Now the internet is entering a new phase. As the chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said, the era of “trust us” is over. While we are more aware than ever of the liberating benefits of a fast, open and accessible online world, we are also more aware than ever of the risks that such a world contains.

To date, Facebook has had to effectively self-regulate in order to address some serious ethical dilemmas, such as where to draw the line between freedom of expression and harmful content. We’ve also had to balance individual privacy with security or consumer choice. But designing the rules of the internet should not be left to private companies alone. That’s why Facebook is actively engaging with policymakers on a range of areas where we think regulation can make a real difference, including privacy, election integrity, harmful content, and solutions to address the long-term sustainability of news.

By engaging on these issues and others there is an opportunity for open, democratic societies such as Australia to shape the rules of the internet for decades to come – which is all the more important because others are writing the new rules of the internet themselves. The fact is there is no longer a single internet, but rather two “internets”: China and the rest of the world. This fragmentation threatens the future of the internet as a universal entity.

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