Feb. 20: Microsoft and Facebook take over international relations

Is Zuck’ running for world president?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published a lenghty text (on Facebook) laying out his vision for the future of his company / the world. In this all-hands-on-deck manifesto, he discusses a very wide-ranging series of topics, framing Facebook as a global community-enabling tool in an age where “across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection.” Seemingly trying to address this fragmentation-globalisation tension, he offers 5 very lofty goals for his company:

  1. Building supportive communities: groups will become more like Pages, with audience metrics that “group leaders” (like politicians) can use to grow the groups they manage
  2. Building safe communities: Facebook will do more to prevent, help during and recover from safety disasters, using AI to make sense out of weak signals harder to detect elsewhere
  3. Building informed communities: they are working on filter bubbles and fake news but want to focus more on news sensationalism and polarization to avoid taking formal editorial roles
  4. Building civically-engaged communities: Facebook will continue incentivizing people’s participation in their democratic processes and connect with their representatives
  5. Building inclusive communities: with community standards, “the approach is to combine creating a large-scale democratic process to determine standards with AI to help enforce them.”

Predictable backlash after Zuck’s Manifesto
“Facebook is already a for-profit form of social infrastructure” writes The Guardian, which interrogates the competing interests between the monetary incentives of the platform and the government-like role of social-fabric architect Facebook wants to play. A controversy started because in an earlier version of the post, Zuckerberg claimed he wanted to use AI to “identify risks that nobody would have flagged at all, including terrorists planning attacks using private channels” – a position that would be quite contradictory with his support for end-to-end encryption (Mashable). NextInpact (in French) points out the contradiction between Facebook’s criticism of the failures of the news industry (sensationalism and polarization) when its Newsfeed algorithm has overwhelmingly shaped these trends. In any case, the piece is full of claims that Facebook can do better and there’s more work to do combined with undefined promises that AI will be the solution to most of these problems. If this is Zuckerberg’s first step in the political arena, he’s already adopted the standards of that community: he’s long on promises, but short on concrete proposals.

Microsoft’s Digital Geneva Convention
It is quite telling of the current geopolitical state of the world that Microsoft would release in the same week than Facebook’s another policy proposal tackling part of the same issues: “we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace” writes Brad Smith (Microsoft). As Facebook’s, Microsoft post is lofty and lengthy, but instead of starting from an apparently blank slate, Microsoft’s strategy does a much better job at relying on international efforts towards addressing this fragmentation-globalization tension. This is not surprising given that Microsoft in the past couple of years stepped up to its international responsibilities and tried to build a diplomatic team to sync agendas with governments around the world. Security Week rightly points out that this vision has been laid out in an academic paper in 2016 called An organizing model for cybersecurity norms development. Eugene Kaspersky, writing for Forbes, wholeheartedly agrees. Of course the proposal is still naive and nascent, but it’s much less concerning – and much less criticized – than Facebook’s.

Have a Pokemon-infected Monday!



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