Over the weekend, Mark Zuckerberg issued a call for increased government regulation of internet platforms such as Facebook. Specifically, he wants new rules for how tech companies should handle the challenges of harmful content, online political ads, data privacy, and data portability.
It's an attention-getting request, given that it's coming from a major leader in an industry that rarely cries out for the government to make rules.
When viewed through a Washington State lens, Zuckerberg's specific request for new political ad regulation is also somewhat ironic.
Last fall, lobbyists for Facebook fought against new political ad regulations enacted by Washington State's Public Disclosure Commission, even though those regulations were specifically designed to protect the integrity of local elections and further the public's right to know who's funding political persuasion campaigns in this state.
After Facebook lobbyists lost that fight, an attorney for Facebook declared the company doesn't have to follow Washington's new rules anyway. (State regulators feel otherwise.)
Last month, a different lawyer for Facebook repeated the company's claim that it's immune from Washington's political ad rules.
As part of this weekend's request for regulation of internet companies, Zuckerberg wrote that creating new rules for the political ad space is "important for protecting elections" and he acknowledged that "deciding whether an ad is political isn’t always straightforward." (Here in Washington, even when ads are straightforwardly political—like, as straightforwardly political as being purchased by "Put Kate on the Council, a political committee to elect Kate Martin to the Seattle City Council District 6 position"—Facebook has had trouble identifying them.)
Zuckerberg also expressed hope for new regulations that create "common standards" when it comes to political ad purchases, an understandable desire given that Zuckerberg heads a massive company with billions of users in countries all over the world.
It's possible that this desire for "common standards" is one aspect of Facebook's resistance to complying with Washington State's unique political ad transparency law.
After all, if every state in America—never mind every city and county in America, never mind every municipality in every country in the world—were to begin enforcing its own regulations when it comes to online political ads, Facebook would have a uniquely challenging problem.
But then again, it was Facebook that chose to offer its services in pretty much every corner of the world.
In this particular corner, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has argued, Facebook entered the local market and for years ignored existing political ad transparency regulations.
Now Zuckerberg wants new regulation of political ads sold by his company. Just not the long-existing, newly updated regulations enacted by Washington State.