Facebook Addresses the International Telecommunication Union’s 20th Global Symposium of Regulators

Earlier today, Kevin Martin, Facebook’s Vice President of US Public Policy, addressed the International Telecommunication Union’s 20th Global Symposium for Regulators. Below are his remarks during “Session 1: Fit-for-purpose institutional frameworks for digital transformation: demystifying the collaborative regulator in a post-COVID digital ecosystem.”

First, good afternoon. And thank you Secretary General Houlin Zhao for inviting me to participate. And it’s a pleasure to be with you all, particularly at such a critical time. As you highlighted, the ability to connect online has become essential to almost every aspect of our lives.

And it doesn’t feel that long ago that I was, as Chair of the FCC, in your shoes as a regulator and attendee of GSR. And I remember back then that the private sector companies would often come, and they would ask and tell us what they needed from the government. But what I didn’t hear as often was the private sector companies coming and asking what our needs were as a regulator and asking us how they could help us achieve them. In other words, the private companies weren’t lining up to ask us how they could make our lives easier.

And at Facebook and with my role there, I really try to make sure that we think of regulation as a partnership — recognizing that we each have roles to play, but we have shared goals, and that there’s appropriate roles for each of us to end up putting forward.

There are things that only the government can do and things that the private sector is best suited to do. And I think that we need to make sure and keep those roles in mind. And also, like software, the best regulation often comes from an iterative process — a back-and-forth between the government and the private sector to try to achieve those goals, and eventually rolling out regulations but improving them over time.

In terms of our mission at Facebook, we’re trying to connect people around the world in a safe and beneficial way, and the government has a critical role to play in that as well. Government needs to take the lead when it comes to setting certain guardrails. For example, regulators need to make sure they’re telling us what we need to do and what the expectations are in cybersecurity and in privacy. And it’s critically important for the government to play that role because many of these policy issues involve a tradeoff of important principles and values, and that’s really the government’s critical role to play.

And at Facebook, we recognize the critical role that regulation can play on issues of public safety or consumer protection and competition — and how important it is to develop clear and smart regulations in those areas.

In policy areas like these, the regulators need to define what they want and they need to let the private sector help them figure out how to implement these goals. In my experience, issues like number portability or interoperability couldn’t have been implemented without the private sector.

And I think the companies need to not wait. We’ve been calling for the development of common industry standards. We’re working on issues already like data portability — and that’s just one example where we’re moving forward to allow users to move their data safely from platform to platform. So we shouldn’t wait for the regulations, but we should be trying to become a critical partner in those going forward.

I appreciate the opportunity. I look forward to the discussion. And I think we should all remember that we’re in this together in fostering an accessible, innovative and safe digital environment.

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