I watched Sheryl Sandberg’s interview today, and what I took from it was that she is very good at “DC-Speak”, and seems to think they don’t need to be regulated like a media company, because they are a “tech” company. She also seems to imply that they are regulated enough and can “self-police”. I think we all know that self-regulation doesn’t work, so why shouldn’t FB be regulated like any other news company out there?
I was thinking about Facebook and Google, and their increasing monopoly not just on the doorways to the Internet but also to its content… I am reluctant to call for interventions, regulation, break-up, but here’s the thing: if you allow a small number of companies to effectively control who sees what on the Internet, you’re making the Internet a small place. If you do it Facebook style, where you get a stream of pablum algorithmically calculated to keep you on-site as long as possible, punctuated by ads that are incredibly well-targeted to you if you’re a regular user, what does that do for the notion of the informed consumer. Well, let me rephrase that a bit, because from its perspective Facebook’s users are consumers for its advertisers, but its service is to those advertisers.
The Internet used to be a much more vibrant and exciting place. You would have collective projects rise up, or the ability to give voice to divergent viewpoints and bring together communities, as happened with blogging. That no longer seems to be the case.
I don’t think regulation directed at Google or FB will really work anyway…by the time some kind of meaningful regulation against them was crafted, implemented and adjudicated in the courts, that ship would have sailed off anyway… Some new technology or platform (and believe me, this is what FB and Alphabet fear the most) could completely destroy their business model. That being said, I still don’t have an issue w/ going against these guys on antitrust grounds… Just to put a good group of investigators w/ the backing of the court would have a civilizing influence on them.
Do you recall the browser wars against Microsoft in the 1990s? And what ‘icons’ were allowed on your opening desktop when you bought your new desktop PC home from Circuit City? For a brief period, Internet Explorer was the dominant internet browser, and MS did everything in their power to keep it that way… up to the time that the EU and even the FTC were coming after them with some ridiculously specific regulations. But by then, that “PC-centric” model had already largely went the way of the dodo… Believe me, there are millions of youngsters in China and India that are working around the periphery of todays Google/FB oligarchy, figuring out how they take down the current big guns.
Soooo, what do we do? If you agree that targeting Google and FB is like carrying water in a paper bag… Do we change the properties of the water (e.g. the Internets) or the bag?
My thinking is that what we need is more along the lines of an internet users bill of rights, along with a legal framework to enforce it… we need a much higher level of transparency about what data is being collected about us, and even more importantly, how that data is being used. Effectively giving users explicit and enforceable guarantees to know how their privacy is being used, and that exceed any waivers or exclusions when you click “accept” on an end-user license agreement. So the FB’s and the EquiFax’s out there will still ‘own’ their own data. But if some of that data is collected off of your “Personally Identifiable Information” (PII), then you have the right to review that information and know when/how it is being utilized.
An example of this might be if you “receive” an advert on your FB page, and you think it is political in nature, you should be able to query that advert to see why you specifically received it and who exactly (by linking to a real website) paid for you to see it.
Of course the Internet oligarchs will scream bloody murder about these proposals. Since they make money by collecting a lot information about ‘us’ in secret, the last they want is to let us see behind that curtain. Also, to no small degree, this is how the internet gets paid for. So implementing privacy protections will probably alter the internet business landscape in ways we don’t yet understand. So some of the things we do on the internet will just need to be paid for if it’s a service we value.
But almost no one understood how domestic and foreign entities could use the internet to surreptitiously and asymmetrically release mass propaganda on us either - until they started doing it to us that is. So the solution will not be to build fire-walls around the platforms, because those will come and go along w/ the business cycle, but to build the firewalls around us, the end users, with specific privacy rights.
Communication has become polluted. The history of communication strongly predicts this will be fixed.
No matter what the problem, innovation of communications technology has been the answer. Ideas are less important than the ability to communicate them.
We are social media, we are our answer.
Trump opposes regulations and is undoing them, shrug.
Well you could say the same thing about your government collecting information on you too.
I actually agree with you on something!
We’re still waiting for the current generation of tech super geniuses to come up with that new, un-hackable algorithm and a new system of ID that can’t be hacked.