What should be done with Facebook – break it up, or regulate it?


From The Guardian:

Facebook has finally been dragged to testify to politicians in Washingtonand London, and there is now a global consensus that something must be done about powerful internet platforms.

Not only has Mark Zuckerberg taken up semi-permanent residence on Capitol Hill, but next week senior Facebook officials will appear before the House of Commons fake news inquiry, whose chairman, Damian Collins will attempt to unpack what went wrong in the entanglements between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, and whether these have facilitated the hacking of western democracy. And the House of Lords has opened an inquiry on internet regulation. Within months, the debate has shifted from “you can’t regulate the internet” to how, and by whom, internet platforms should be regulated.

Everything is suddenly on the table. Following concerns about hate speech, fake news and child exploitation, the culture secretary, Matt Hancock, recently spoke about reviewing Facebook’s liability exemptions. For Facebook et al this innocuous phrase is dynamite: taking away protection would mean platforms bear legal risk for content posted by their users, and should monitor it. The European parliament is considering altering the copyright regime against them, and in favour of news publishers. Fanned by the newspapers – who after all have had their lunch eaten by Facebook – it must look to Zuckerberg from his Silicon Valley bunker that the policy juggernaut is careening out of control.

Of course, he had it coming. Like sorcerers’ apprentices, platforms are powerful in part because we made them so. In the past two decades, governments around the world have looked to them to solve the social problems they host. Giving them responsibility to ensure protection of children – or guard against hate speech, copyright infringement, and now fake news – also makes them all-powerful over online rights, with no oversight or appeal. As our lives have moved online, so platforms have become adjudicators of our fundamental rights, even in the process inventing the “right to be forgotten” – or rather the right to be de-listed from Google results.

Parliaments and governments around the world have multiple levers they can use in their unfolding negotiation with Facebook. They can use the tax system: the problem is that we do not have a sense of whether Facebook is more like the alcohol and gambling industries – which are considered a social bad and taxed accordingly – or a social good and subject to tax breaks.

They can use the competition law regime: how about tweaking the Enterprise Act public interest regime, or equivalent European laws, to stop platforms growing or buying up their competitors – unless they meet societal standards of transparency and public interest?

One of the things the Lords are grappling with is why competition law has failed to prevent their dominance. The truth is that the social objectives of competition law have been lost: if the price is right, the competition regulators have, until recently, been happy. This is why the Lords have to think not only about which tweaks are going to deal with the issue, but about how to act: whether we are deciding to break up Facebook or to regulate it in the public interest.

How do you think Congress should handle Facebook? Tell us in the comments. Read more at The Guardian.

Comments (2)
No. 1-2

Time to break up and regulate


You are being programmed Algorithms and their place in our creative minds.

What is an algorithm? A set of rules that precisely defines a sequence of operations.

How are they dumbing down our imagination? From the moment we wake up to the moment we sleep, our lives are encapsulated by the programs we rely on to function within our daily routines. Finances, Social Media, Entertainment, Search Engines etc.. are constantly asking us to input our lucrative data into their databases, giving the rich source of our cyber life over to these companies who then translate it into value metrics that helps to drive sales, investments and overtime profits in exchange for their goods or services. Each service (application or website) then tracks individuals usage over time in order to supply them with more consistent information based on their needs. While we are sold on a daily basis that this then improves our way of life in the digital scope of our developed world I can’t help but find myself and many others, from various daily observations, essentially developing a reliance around these rules that sequence our lives slowly but consistently diminishing key human traits that we need for our survival with generations to come.

Imagination and Fantasy. We all share some story from our younger years where we had to entertain ourselves and put our imagination to use. Whether that was taking a medium sized pile of dirt and turning it into a functioning city for your set of plastic monsters or redesigning your living room with linen from the closet in the hallway and using the sofa cushions to build a makeshift bunker that you could share with your friends (such male examples, I know). These small moments in our childhood might seem unimportant but they lay foundations for how we assess situations as adults. It is vital on the path to creating your own version of success. If we dare to dream we dare to live. At what stage in life should we be interrupting how a child is using this key resource life has to offer.

The disaster we are yet to encounter. The usage of technology from the age of birth begins to program a child's mind and I believe hinders how they will be able to think for themselves long term. The overconsumption of digital content is forming habits that are shaping a child’s mind in a way that is unseen ever before. In my opinion there may be a disaster we are yet to comprehend approaching human life in the coming future. When we look at the gap between our parents understanding our problems growing up, cell phones had just begun causing a divide (1985-90’s babies). Text messaging was the first new thing that our parents had no comprehension over at that level, the teenage environment, and the potential damage it could cause. Social issues were only beginning to become amplified. Bullying, discrimination, depression, sexual activity, drug & alcohol use, peer pressure are all examples of social issues teens struggle with. Since leaving high school 10 years ago the growth in these issues has dramatically been amplified by easier access to technology, lack of understanding from parents, guardians and the impact of programmable habits based around sequenced information. Think about how much danger could be inflicted if too much control is in the wrong hands and they’re not aware of the consequences. This is a direct example of why we are going to see an increase in social issues over the next 10-20 years. This is the disaster in reference. If we become completely programmed and lose sense of our creativity, imagination and control of our actions we risk becoming a product of our own doing and will suffer considerably. To close this out I recommend there to be a regulation put on the ownership of technological devices for people under the age of at least 13 to be supervised or restricted from independently being the main driver to the outside world. Not only for their safety but the safety of others.

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