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Op-ed: Facebook’s Nick Clegg calls for bipartisan approach to break the deadlock on internet …

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CEO and co-founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg poses next to Facebook head of global policy communications and former UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (L) prior to a meeting with French President at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 10, 2019.

Yoah Valat | AFP | Getty Images

Around the world, lawmakers are writing the new rules of the internet. In Europe, India, Australia, the UK and elsewhere, laws are being proposed governing everything from privacy and content, to the size and competitiveness of technology companies and how data is held, shared and used at scale.

This is a good thing — regulation is overdue. For too long, many of these important issues have been left to private companies to deal with alone. Far from resisting regulation, Facebook has advocated it in a number of areas for some time now.

President Biden has called for a global alliance of “techno-democracies,” but efforts to regulate tech in Washington have stalled. Much of the domestic debate is devoted to whether to break up big tech companies, but not on the fundamental societal issues at stake — like rules around privacy, safety, content, and data sharing — which can only be fixed by regulation.

This is a pivotal moment. As policymakers begin drafting laws, it’s increasingly clear there are contrasting visions of what the internet should be. The open, accessible and global internet we use today has been shaped by American companies and American values like free expression, transparency, accountability and the encouragement of innovation and entrepreneurship. But these values can’t be taken for granted.

The Chinese internet model — segregated from the wider internet and subject to extensive surveillance — presents a risk to the open internet. Other countries, including Vietnam, Russia and Turkey, have taken steps in a similar direction.

Even in many open democratic societies, there is talk of “data sovereignty” and moves to clamp down on American companies and the sharing of data. Seamless data flows are the life blood of an open internet. But European court rulings have thrown data transfers between the E.U. and U.S. into doubt. Protecting our economies by ensuring the free flow of data between the E.U. and U.S. should be an urgent priority on both sides of the Atlantic. In India, the world’s largest democracy, regulators have published rules that expand the government’s ability to direct social media platforms to trace and take down content, including private messages.

The U.S. risks becoming a nation that exports incredible technologies, but fails to export its values. To make progress, we need to break the gridlock in DC. While there are substantial disagreements between Democrats and Republicans, no one wants the status quo and there’s much both sides agree on.

I’m an outsider to both Silicon Valley and Washington. My background is in British and European politics. As the Deputy Prime Minister in the U.K.’s first coalition government for generations, I led a naturally center-left party into a constructive governing arrangement with a center-right one. It worked because we focused on making progress on the things we agreed on.

Here are four areas where I believe progress could be made quickly with a bipartisan approach.

First, reform of Section 230. People of all political persuasions want large companies to take responsibility for combating illegal content and activity on their platforms. And when they remove harmful content, people want them to do so fairly and transparently. Congress could start there.

Platforms should only be granted continued protection from liability for the content they carry if they can demonstrate that they have robust practices for identifying illegal content and quickly removing it. While it would be impractical to hold them liable if a particular piece of content evades detection — there are billions of posts every day — they should be required to follow industry best practices. Congress could also bring more transparency, accountability, and oversight to the processes by which large internet companies make and enforce rules about what users can do or say on their services.

Second, Congress could do more to protect against influence operations. Companies can and do take steps to root out organized networks seeking to mislead people and undermine public trust. But Congress can create deterrence that no industry effort can match. Our teams have published recommended principles for regulation in this space, with a focus on imposing cost on the people behind these campaigns, and creating clarity on the boundary between deception and advocacy. Congress could act now to mandate platform transparency, enable lawful information sharing and impose liability directly on the people and organizations behind malicious influence operations. Congress could also update the rules around the use of social media in elections — rules which haven’t changed meaningfully to account for the internet era. For example, we’ve supported regulation like the Honest Ads Act and the Deter Act to prevent election interference.

Third, Congress can break the deadlock on federal privacy legislation. The U.S. is watching from the sidelines as others write the global playbook on privacy, with significant implications for American values, competitiveness and national security. But there’s much Democrats and Republicans agree on. By looking for a sensible middle ground Congress could make real progress, for example by establishing strong regulatory enforcement, and giving businesses certainty to operate.

Fourth, Congress should set out clear rules on data portability to better enable people to move their data between services and “vote with their feet.” It could also create rules to govern how platforms should share data for the public good. As society grapples with how to address misinformation, harmful content, and rising polarization, Facebook research could provide insights that help design evidence-based solutions. But to do that, there needs to be a clear regulatory framework for data research that preserves individual privacy.

Finally, to address these issues and more, the U.S. could create a new digital regulator. Not only would a new regulator be able to navigate the competing trade-offs in the digital space, it would be able to join the dots between issues like content, data, and economic impact — much like the Federal Communications Commission has successfully exercised regulatory oversight over telecoms and media.

By focusing on the areas where there is agreement on both sides, Congress can break the deadlock and create the most comprehensive internet legislation in a generation. In doing so, it can help to preserve the American values at the heart of the global internet.

Nick Clegg is vice president of global affairs at Facebook, former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom and former member of the European Parliament.

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How to prepare your Facebook account for your digital afterlife

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Today, our online lives are where we share a lot of private and personal information, especially on social media platforms where we share many of our thoughts, post photos and videos over the time we have spent online. Among these social media platforms, Facebook is the most used social media service today. A lot of us, our friends and our family members have a Facebook account. We post and share everything from our private photos to a personal message via Facebook.

But have you wondered what happens to your Facebook account and the information (like posts, comments, photos, videos, etc.) that you have created and accumulated on the service after your time?

■ What will happen to my account?

■ Who can access your profiles?

■ Who will own your account and data?

■ How to manage it when such a time comes?

Facebook has added features to your account so that you can decide what happens to your account when such a time arises. Follow the steps given below to set it up and ensure that the information in your Facebook accounts is handed over to someone else safely or managed according to your choice.

Setting up Facebook’s legacy contact:

In the case of Facebook, you can choose to memorialise your account and hand over the control to a ‘Legacy contact’ of your choice or altogether delete your profile after your time.

Step 1: To set up your legacy contact, you can visit the ‘Settings & privacy’ option under your profile and select the ‘Memorialisation settings’ under ‘General Account settings’. You can also sign in to your account and visit https://www.facebook.com/settings to access this setting.

Step 2: Now, you can choose a legacy contact in this setting by searching for and adding a friend from your account as your legacy contact. Do note that, once memorialised, the legacy contact can only moderate the posts on your page and not post on your behalf.

Step 3: The following setting is to choose whether to allow your legacy contact to download all your data that you have created or shared on your Facebook account like posts, photos, videos etc.

Step 4: The final setting on this page could be considered an alternative to choosing a legacy contact. This setting is to delete your complete Facebook account once you pass away. Facebook needs to be informed about your death and requires verifying it with valid documentation to activate this feature. The company will delete all your information on Facebook on completion of this process.

To know more about these settings, you can visit the FAQ page on legacy contact.

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Big EU lawsuit against Facebook morphs into 3-year ‘partnership’ with complainants

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Three years ago, a group of EU consumer agencies launched a multi-country lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of having illegally harvested the data of millions of users.

More than 300,000 angry Facebook users positioned themselves behind the collective action suit, which promised to award them individual monetary damages if the company was found guilty of wrongdoing.

On Friday, those lawsuits quietly morphed into a brand new partnership with Facebook.

Euroconsumers, the umbrella organization behind the Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Portuguese lawsuits, announced they were entering a partnership with the company focused on the “safety and privacy” of Facebook users.

The move comes after POLITICO reported that Euroconsumers had settled its lawsuit with Facebook at the end of April — and highlights the fact that collective action lawsuits rarely make it over the finish line in Europe, sheltering companies from the type of action that can produce crippling damages in U.S. courts while leaving consumers with little recourse.

Originally, Euroconsumers had told people who joined the case it would seek compensation of €200 for every Facebook user whose data was mishandled.

In the end, though, there will be no court decision, no admission of wrongdoing by Facebook and no direct payment from the company to consumers as a result of the settlement, according to Euroconsumers.

Instead, the consumer groups and Facebook said they were forming a joint committee focused on three priorities: sustainability, digital empowerment and fighting scams. The issue of privacy — which was the explicit focus of the lawsuit — is the “umbrella” under which the thee priorities fall.

As for the consumers, they are being promised a vague consolation prize.

The four consumer groups said they would commit to “reward” consumers who joined the original lawsuit with “a package to help consumers be safe online” — but no hard cash.

Asked whether Facebook had paid money to Euroconsumers in the settlement, the group declined to comment. POLITICO reached out to Facebook, but the company didn’t give an immediate response apart from the press release.

Meanwhile, the committee isn’t committed to producing any specific results.

“There are specific initiatives in the making, but there will also be a consumer reporting channel. We will able to report problems that emerge, like feedback from our members,” said Els Bruggeman, head of policy at Euroconsumers.

A spokesperson for the group said: “It’s the moment to try to influence the reasoning from companies who are managed far away.”

Legally speaking, though, the heat is off Facebook.

The consumer groups will evaluate their collaboration in three years.

“An agreement for one year would be too short. Three years is long enough to be able to evaluate. There will be a lot of changes in the digital world in that period,” added the spokesperson.

In the meantime, a change in legislation may give future collective action lawsuits in Europe more teeth: A directive finalized late last year could lead to bigger pan-European collective redress cases.

Want more analysis from POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to trade, technology, cybersecurity and more, Pro delivers real time intelligence, deep insight and breaking scoops you need to keep one step ahead. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary trial.

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Russian watchdog demands that Facebook delete post insulting WWII veterans

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MOSCOW, May 29. /TASS/. Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) demanded that US company Facebook delete an Instagram post that insults the memory of World War II veterans, the watchdog said on its website on Friday.

“Roskomnadzor has sent a letter to Facebook Inc top management, demanding that content insulting the memory of World War II veterans be deleted,” the watchdog said. “The governmental agency found the unlawful post on the Instagram social network, owned by Facebook.”

According to Roskomnadzor, publication of clearly offensive information that insults Russia’s military glory and memorable dates, or desecrates military glory symbols, or offends WWII veterans constitutes a criminal offense in Russia and is subject to criminal proscution.

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