Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Facebook urges industry to take a more nuanced approach to regulation

Facebook “actively” welcomes government regulation but believes the industry must also continue to invest in significant self-regulation in order to allay consumer, advertiser and agency fears in its products and services, according to Nick Baughan, its UK and Ireland Director of Agencies.

However, Baughan warns the industry needs to move from looking at regulation as one “amorphous blob”, with advertising and editorial content regulation two very distinct things.

Talking to NDA editor Justin Pearse on this week’s upcoming NDA podcast, Baughan says that advertising regulation in the UK is “best in class” under the self-regulatory framework of the likes of the Advertising Standards Authority, CAP and VICAP codes.

However, the rules around editorial content were much more fragmented, he suggested, particularly post the Leveson report, and with issues the social media platforms were facing on a global basis. He suggested that in the UK it was likely that Ofcom would be put in charge of social media regulation but conversations were ongoing.

“The point I want to make is this is something that we really welcome. We’ve been very clear, and Mark Zuckerberg has been very clear, that we think there ought to be more government regulation in this space, and that we are actually uncomfortable with making all these content decisions by ourselves,” he says.

Yet because different governments operate at different speeds, it is also crucial to have robust self-regulation, such as the Independent Oversights Board it is setting up comprised of individuals drawn from different professions and geographies including those with legal and journalist backgrounds.

Baughan, a media agency veteran before joining Facebook in 2019, also speaks of agencies’ capacity for reinvention. He says agencies are uniquely placed to “take an objective view of the broader landscape rather than just one player in it. “Agencies do a brilliant job of creating that objective playing field.”

However, the “massive” structural issues that the big networks are facing means he believes that they must evolve – something he is “bullish” they can achieve. “Agencies are models of reinvention,” he adds.

Other topics explored in the podcast included the rise of consultancies, especially in the digital transformation space, connecting brand and performance activities, technological innovations within Facebook and across the digital advertising ecosystem and how both global organisations and new direct-to-consumer companies alike can benefit from these, particularly as consumer trends such as ecommerce accelerate.