It was a rough week for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who was called to DC for two days of grilling by various Congressional Subcommittees. To Mr. Zuckerberg’s credit he faced the fire and apologized for FB’s wrongdoings – admitting the problem is usually the first step to solving it, right? As expected there was a ton of press on this. From a media standpoint I thought AdWeek did a nice job of summarizing the key takeaways. However, I think there’s an even bigger power play going on here than is being reported.
From my perspective the most important dynamic shift to come out of the Congressional hearings is the idea of government regulation over the internet. If you want to read up on this I covered this topic extensively in a recent blog post. You could tell from their questions that members of Congress are inching toward regulation, and Zuckerberg even admitted that some form of regulation could be warranted. But there’s a really fine point in the conversation which needs to be highlighted. When Mark Zuckerberg was asked if he considered FB a media company he replied with a firm no. That’s smart, because every FB lawyer has undoubtedly told him that being classified as a media company would open the door for more regulation than any digital publisher would ever want.
Of all the Congressional hoopla this week I believe this one question is really the defining moment of the internet privacy conversation. If Digital becomes another media outlet in the eyes of Congress we’ll see more regulation than otherwise. Where this journey goes is anyone’s guess, but it’s so important to watch.