This isn't an April Fool's joke.
Facebook (FB) front man Mark Zuckerberg is getting out ahead of his critics and the market is moving his stock higher in return.
Shares of the social media giant edged up by almost 1% in early pre-market hours after a Sunday op-ed penned by Zuckerberg in the Washington Post.
"I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators," Zucerkberg wrote. "By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what's best about it - the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things - while also protecting society from broader harms."
The comments echo the feelings of Facebook's front office for quite some time, the idea that regulation is inevitable, but that a steering of the process is possible.
"It's not a question of if regulation, it's a question of what type,'" embattled COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a Senate hearing about a year ago. "We're open to regulation. We work with lawmakers all over the world."
The company has been no stranger to controversy, even since its inception, mostly avoiding the watchful eye of regulators until its disastrous Cambridge Analytica involvement in the lead up to the 2016 election.
With the 2020 election looming, it would appear Zuckerberg, and many Facebook investors, would like to avoid the possibility of further bad press and he has gotten out in front of the constant criticism. Going a step further he has laid out strategies for regulation that could help preserve his business model.
Catching Up Since Cambridge Analytica
Since that noteworthy Cambridge Analytica scandal, the political pressure has been almost unrelenting, both at home and abroad.
On the domestic front, the company remains under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, according to an agency disclosure field on March 26.
"Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements. Accordingly, the FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook," the release states. "Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices."
The disclosed investigation adds to the complaints and questions coming from the U.S. Court of the Eastern District of New York, which is probing the company on its release of user data to partnered companies and a civil complaint from Ben Carson's department of Housing and Urban Development over data collection.
The data issue is one that has stretched abroad as well, given the continued inquiries of European regulators eager to enforce GDPR standards.
"Despite the changes that Facebook has made during the run-up to the GDPR, Facebook still violates the fundamental rights of millions of residents of Belgium," the Belgian Data Protection Authority (Gegevensbeschermingsautoriteit) said in a statement on March 26. "The obligations that were previously in the Privacy Act have been strengthened since 25 May 2018. The DPA will therefore ask the Court of Appeal of Brussels to confirm the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 16 February 2018, also for the future."
The firm stance on Facebook's transgressions in Belgium are echoed throughout much of the EU, with both German and Irish federal authorities filing similar claims.
The bloc of countries have not been shy to impose major penalties on GDPR-infringing companies in the past, charting record breaking fines on Alphabet (GOOGL) over the past year. Facebook has come into the same category, with rumored fines reaching well over $1 billion.
It would appear that Zuckerberg is looking to avoid being billed often by beseeching regulators for a baseline of regulations to abide by.
Setting the Strategy
In attempting to control the narrative it is important to asses what Zuckerberg's aims are.
"From what I've learned, I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability," Zuckerberg said in identifying the key issues he seeks to address.
Surprisingly, Zuckerberg was complimentary of the GDPR standards that threaten to sting his profits.
"I believe it would be good for the internet if more countries adopted regulation such as GDPR as a common framework," he wrote. "New privacy regulation in the United States and around the world should build on the protections GDPR provides."
However, he was quick to clarify that in his view data should not be required to be stored locally and argued for a global standard of regulations in order to avoid fielding complaints from numerous national and state entities.
He also argued that data portability is imperative, a key argument for his company that has built its future around WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, and the News Feed acting as an ecosystem where data can be shared freely.
"Regulation should guarantee the principle of data portability. If you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another," Zuckerberg said. "This gives people choice and enables developers to innovate and compete."
He added that he will be happy to work with lawmakers to iron out the details of reasonable regulation.
"I believe Facebook has a responsibility to help address these issues, and I'm looking forward to discussing them with lawmakers around the world," Zuckerberg concluded. "But people shouldn't have to rely on individual companies addressing these issues by themselves. We should have a broader debate about what we want as a society and how regulation can help."
At the very least, it appears Zuckerberg may have angled himself a seat at the negotiating table with his op-ed article.
In Monday morning's early hours trading, the market appeared to appreciate his maneuvering.
(Facebook and Alphabet are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells FB or GOOGL? Learn more now.)
Will You Have Enough Money to Retire?
Want to learn about retirement planning from some of the nation's top experts? Join TheStreet's Robert "Mr. Retirement" Powell live in New York on April 6 for our Retirement Strategies Symposium. For a limited time, tickets are available for $99 for this full-day event. Check out the agenda, learn about the speakers and sign up here.