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Defending the Future of the Open Internet | Mainstage

Nick Clegg, Vice President of Global Affairs, Facebook, and former Member of the British Parliament
Hannah Vaughan Jones, News Anchor and Journalist, CNN International

Internet fragmentation represents the epitome of globalization, Nick Clegg, Vice President of Global Affairs for Facebook, and former Member of the British Parliament, began. While globalization continues, politics has begun to deglobalize. Governments want control within their borders. Social platforms exist across borders but the global internet doesn’t really exist, given nations like China that have limited or denied access to their citizens. 

Hannah Vaughan Jones, News Anchor and Journalist for CNN International, asked Clegg to explain Facebook’s position on regulation. Clegg agreed that regulation is necessary given the considerable disruption of social media to traditional streams of information. The U.S., European Union, and India should lead the way in defending the open internet. There are always unintended consequences to regulation, especially with fluid technologies, said Clegg, drawing on his experience in government. Governments should work hand in glove with private industry to give mature and helpful advice on regulations in practice.

Jones drew upon recent reporting to push Clegg on issues affecting Facebook and Instagram. Clegg expressed his conviction that Facebook is continually researching its own products in order to fulfill its responsibility to amplify the good and minimize the bad effects. In particular, he highlighted Facebook’s financial investment in keeping its users safe from hate speech. Free speech, he stressed, remains legal even if it is distasteful.

I don’t think we’re ever going to expunge the bad from social media, but I believe—having worked at Facebook for three years—that we are making very sincere—no doubt imperfect—efforts at constantly enhancing user control, protecting vulnerable people from seeing content that is not great and, crucially, removing and blocking content from our platform that simply does not belong on our services.

Nick Clegg

We’re talking about defending the future of the open internet, specifically internet fragmentation, data regulation, and digital protectionism.

Hannah Vaughan Jones

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • The government must take a primary role in defending the open internet, though careful regulation is necessary to ensure the safety of its users. It should collaborate with private industry to determine best steps.
  • Free speech is a necessary and important right that must be balanced with its potential to cause harm.