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Facebook's 'Please Regulate Us' Tour Heads To France

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On Friday, Mark Zuckerberg went to France, just in time for the French government to release a vague and broad proposal to regulate social media networks. Similar to Zuckerberg's pleas to Congress to ramp up its regulation of the company (and because he knows that any pushback on regulations will likely be slammed by the world of Facebook-haters), Zuckerberg tried to embrace the plans.

"It's going to be hard for us, there are going to be things in there we disagree with, that's natural," Zuckerberg said. "But in order for people to trust the internet overall and over time, there needs to be the right regulation put in place."
He also said that he was "encouraged and optimistic about the regulatory framework that will be put in place."What is that regulatory framework? Well, it's pretty vague. It also has PowerPoint artwork that looks like it was designed decades ago by someone who has no business being anywhere near PowerPoint:
To its credit, the plan does recognize that "freedom of expression" is a key value that needs to be protected, as well as freedom for innovation, but then also says those need to be balanced with a protection from harm. The key issue, as we've seen in other such plans is that it creates what people are referring to as a "duty of care" for social media -- requiring the company to "protect" users and allows regulators to somehow step in if they feel the company isn't succeeding (as if that won't be abused).The plan also sets up a regulator who will be tasked with overseeing how social media platforms operate. There is also some hand-waving, suggesting that these rules will only apply to platforms of a certain size, which lets them argue that it won't impact or discourage startups, without recognizing how it might alter the overall market as companies seek to avoid whatever threshold rules put them into the "regulated" category. Also, much of the plan does focus on increasing transparency, which is a good thing, but how that gets worked out in practice is a really big question.The issue in all of this is the same as we've discussed before: Facebook can deal with these rules. It's not clear if other companies can. In effect, the rules might lock in Facebook and this particular paradigm of centralized, siloed social media as what must exist going forward. And that's a problem. Also, trusting regulators to handle these issues in a reasonable way should raise some eyebrows. For people who hate Donald Trump, how would you feel if he were in charge of regulating what sort of "duty of care" Facebook had to take concerning allowing or disallowing certain speech? Or if you like Trump, then how would you feel if, say, Hillary Clinton or AOC were in charge of such things?In short, who the regulator is can have a pretty massive impact here, and there seems to be little in these proposals to consider that. It's not surprising that Facebook seems resigned to "support" these kinds of proposals. The company is such a target right now that any pushback would probably lead to even worse rules. And, as mentioned, the company is well aware that it can probably weather any such rules, while any potential competitors will probably be hit much harder by them.

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And Scene: Suburban Express To Shut Down In Mere Months

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To take you back through the entire history since Suburban Express made it onto the Techdirt radar would take more words than I care to spend, but we'll do the short version. Suburban Express runs van lines between Chicago and a couple of local universities. It also, somewhat oddly, regularly goes to war with its own customers, as well as the wider internet. The internet side is mostly well-worn assholery: bitching about review sites, bitching about Reddit, and threatening everyone in between with legal actions. Where the company blazes new trails is when owner Dennis Toeppen gets arrested for harassing critics and customers online, sends out blatantly racist advertisements, and gets itself sued by the Illinois AG for roughly all of the above.This whole saga of stupid has featured guest spots like government employees, law enforcement officers, and even Ken "Popehat" White. But, as all such sagas go, it had to eventually come to an end. And that end comes in the glorious form of Suburban Express shutting down.

Local bus company Suburban Express shut down all operations Tuesday, according to a court filing from owner Dennis Toeppen posted late in the day.Suburban Express' website was unreachable Tuesday afternoon except for a refund submission form, as required by the consent decree Toeppen reached last month with the Illinois Attorney General's Office.Toeppen is also shutting down his other transportation companies, Allerton Charter Coach and Illini Shuttle.
So, what led to this shut down, you may be asking yourself? Did Toeppen grow as a person and realize that he is not the sort of fellow who should be running a business? Is there some plan to shut down and build up something new, something that will be more kind, human, and inclusive?Nope, this is all about trying to get out of the consent decree the resulted from the Illinois AG lawsuit.
He claimed shutting down his companies should "render most of the consent decree moot," though he also said the $100,000 payment he's required to make to the attorney general as part of the consent decree will be made around May 15.The AG's office is reviewing how the closures will affect enforcement of the consent decree, spokeswoman Annie Thompson said in a statement."Although Mr. Toeppen has informed the court that Suburban Express has ceased operations, the defendants are still obligated to comply with the consent decree," she wrote. "Our office is currently reviewing Mr. Toeppen's filing to determine its impact on the consent decree and Suburban Express customers."
So Toeppen is still playing games that puts him squarely at odds with the AG's office and the public interest. This becomes all the more obvious when we examine Toeppen's comments in the filing itself. In those comments, he makes it clear that he's willing to do everything he can to burn every bridge, and the public good in general, on his way down.
In his filing, Toeppen didn't shy away from taking a parting shot at his competition."We have decided not to facilitate or aid in replacement of Champaign-Urbana service," he wrote. "Instead, we prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch as competitor's fares rise, frequency falls, and passenger injuries and fatalities increase."
So, yeah, Toeppen is still going to Toeppen.In the end, the fact that Suburban Express is shutting down in this way does serve a positive purpose. That purpose would be as a warning for other businesses that want to go on anti-consumer, anti-internet tirades simply due to legitimate complaints about the business itself and the people running it. Thin skin is not an asset in any part of life, but it must certainly be least useful when running a business.Maybe if Toeppen had bothered treating people like human beings, he and his business wouldn't have ended up in the business gutter.

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