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Stossel Brook video on Facebook regulation

Brook and Stossel Scrutinize Facebook’s Regulatory Bid

Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post outlining a proposal for a “more active role” for government to address content and privacy issues in social media. Since I’ve commented in the past on the danger that regulatory law can pose to the crucial value of freedom of speech, I’ve been following this story closely.

I hope to have more to say about how to evaluate Facebook’s proposal in the pages of this journal in the future. But for the time being, I’d like to share an initial take on the situation from the Ayn Rand Institute’s chairman of the board, Yaron Brook, who recently appeared on an episode of John Stossel’s web series on Reason.com to discuss the situation:

Stossel opens with his signature “Gimme a break” line, suggesting that Facebook is only trying to use regulations to erect a protective wall against competitors. He’s right that companies are known to use regulations in this way, but why is Stossel so sure that this is their primary motivation?

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Brook offers a perspective that contrasts with Stossel’s own framing of the issue. Brook certainly doesn’t dismiss the potential for cronyism in Zuckerberg’s overture. But he does put Facebook’s situation into a wider context that illuminates the issue. The most relevant piece of context Brook mentions is the story of the price paid by Microsoft in the 1990s when it tried to avoid paying tribute to lobbyists. Facebook now finds itself in a similar position. Watch to see Stossel somewhat begrudgingly change his tune toward the end in light of Brook’s comments.

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Ben Bayer

Ben Bayer, Ph.D. in philosophy and formerly a professor, is a fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.

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