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The "tech giants" are creating and controlling core forms of communication, both interpersonal and broadcast/public. That's too important and fundamental to the health of society to allow it to be arbitrarily engineered, filtered, and slanted for maximizing profit.

If they were acting like common carriers, it would be a completely different issue. But they're not; they have business models that necessitate the manipulation of communication.




I don't buy this argument.

The internet providers are de facto pretty close to the common carrier status (except maybe in cases of huge scale, like Netflix or google, where explicit net neutrality might be desirable). There are no huge technical or financial barriers to entry if you want to build a platform for communication over the internet, nothing comparable to e.g. telecom networks (either in 1950s or now).

The cost of acquiring a millions-strong audience, operating at that scale, and becoming essential for large swaths of society can be pretty low, both in financing and manpower; if Instagram is not a good example for you, take more extreme examples of Wikipedia or SciHub.

Would you like newspapers (e.g. that very NYT) be governmentally regulated because they are "too important for society"? It's dangerously close to the late Soviet Union. How effective NYT would be e.g. in uncovering the Watergate case were they regulated "for the common good"?

There's a particular fallacy that makes people think that some centralized regulation would be more efficient and lead to better outcomes than self-regulation on a level playing field. The efficiency is there in very few cases, mostly those that seriously defy common sense (e.g. control over antibiotics), or set safety guidelines against mass illness (e.g. food safety control). In most other cases, a bureaucratic body has as skewed incentives as a for-profit corporation, but much fewer reasons to improve anything.


>Would you like newspapers (e.g. that very NYT) be governmentally regulated because they are "too important for society"? It's dangerously close to the late Soviet Union. How effective NYT would be e.g. in uncovering the Watergate case were they regulated "for the common good"? There's a particular fallacy that makes people think that some centralized regulation would be more efficient and lead to better outcomes than self-regulation on a level playing field.

I don't really want media companies regulated too heavily, I want them broken up into many smaller companies. Same thing for big banks and big agriculture and the pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies and for data-harvesting tech companies like Google and Facebook. Break them up, force them to compete. I think to the extent that regulation is necessary in tech it should be regulating a common standard by which you can export your social media profile and move it to any other and then mandating complete access to all information a company has on me and a minimum damage value for all information leaks (say $10 per person).

Not every regulation has to be a giant bureaucratic mess. Instead we should look to government to set markets back to their rightful states - lots of information, lots of alternatives, lots of competition between those alternatives and little lock in.


> a minimum damage value for all information leaks (say $10 per person).

$10 for an email, name or other semi-common info. $100 for a hashed password $1000 for social security, credit card numbers, unhashed password


> Would you like newspapers (e.g. that very NYT) be governmentally regulated because they are "too important for society"? It's dangerously close to the late Soviet Union.

I can agree with the first part of your argument, but you're going overboard here by declaring any form of regulation to be totalitarian in nature. Considerations on the interests of companies versus the interests of society as a whole can be made (and are made) in well-functioning democracies. It's continually difficult to strike a balance, and overzealous mistakes may be made or the process might be corrupted. Still, you can't wholly dismiss governmental regulation as the modern world simply functions on it.


Well it is more the regulation of their constraints on power that is inherently totalitarian exploitable as a power consolidating move - even if the passers don't do it with bad intentions it /will/ be exploited for all it is worth later. Operating under the assumption that every bill should be evaluated as if it will be done in bad faith is wise for the same reason the first rule of networking security is never trust the client.

It would be like ammending the constitution to allow punishing the supreme court for making bad decisions - technically it holds others accountable but that is not what it will be used for.


Not any form, but this particular form, that is, regulating the forms and contents of communication, is what moves a society closer to totalitarianism. The more regulated newspapers are, the harder it is to publish a fringe opinion, the less free a society is.

If we replace newspapers with other media, especially more peer-to-peer media like Facebook or Twitter, the effect only gets more pronounced. Look at Turkey or Russia for examples.


> any form of regulation to be totalitarian in nature

If something can be done, it will eventually be done.


> Would you like newspapers (e.g. that very NYT) be governmentally regulated...

Specious argument. Internet providers are not content providers. Regulating content is not what's proposed. Those who provide access to content most certainly SHOULD be regulated. They're a common carrier, and no one with a profit motive has any business constraining access to content provided by others. That attitude befits each castle independently taxing passer-by river traffic.

If we're going to allow ISPs to tax us arbitrarily, we'd damned well better have more of them to choose from than the monopoly most of us 'enjoy' now.


A lot more regulation could be done without actually resorting to censoring media.


I agree that they are getting too powerful but the main issue is that the FTC keeps allowing all these mega mergers and consolidations.

I also find it ironic that this is from the NYTimes when one could argue that 60 years ago that they were the too powerful one. The easiest source of information is always going to have an unfair advantage and drive the narrative. The only thing that has changed is that this is cheaper to do and scale now then in the old days. You can't stop people from being lazy.


> I also find it ironic that this is from the NYTimes when one could argue that 60 years ago that they were the too powerful one.

That's really a stretch. In 1968 there's no question the NYT was among the top 3-4 national newspapers, but it's not even a remotely close comparison.

First of all you're still talking about a rather bulky collection of papers that had to be distributed daily in order to have any persuasive ability. The NYT never had daily sway over the residents of Colorado Springs or Salt Lake City, and as a practical matter pretty much every American had never picked up an issue.

Their reach internationally was minimal at best, and even within NYC they had half a dozen very serious competitors. And of course the three major broadcast networks (both radio and TV) were of equal or higher reach as well.

Comparing their reach 60 years ago to Facebook today is actually incredibly instructive, but not at all in the way you're implying.


>but the main issue is that the FTC keeps allowing all these mega mergers and consolidations.

Such a short-sighted effort to identify a singular bad apple seems disingenuous. Hardly anyone on this site is blind to the FTC’s corrupt motivations for cooperating with the tech corporations. Is this an effort to soothing some personal guilt? I can’t make sense of it.

>The only thing that has changed is that this is cheaper to so and scale now then in the old days.

Not true or helpful. Why even try to make such a comparison? What about the FTC allowing mergers? You said it yourself! And nobody here will have trouble finding examples of businesses not participating in these dystopian and authoritarian practices. Very odd minimalization of these issues as laziness. I can’t imagine who you think you’re fooling.


That has been true ever since "I supply the pictures, you supply the war"; "if it leads it bleeds" and lets not forget the main.

The only reason people are talking about it now is that newspapers are no longer in a position to dictatate terms and that, gasp, ugly discusting nerds have finally gotten a say.

Of course there are problems with the current crop of corporations in charge (and it is going to get worse, since you could have many large newspapers in the US, but there is only going to be one dominating social media platform, although which one it is can change and most certainly will), but that doesn't mean the solution is to hand power back to NYT.


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Like we've asked already, please post civilly and substantively or we'll ban you.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


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It seems you won't post substantively (and it doesn't matter what you're replying to), so we've banned the account.


While this may be true, there's no guarantee that the government can do the job better. The slow ratchet of regulation is what's right for the industry at the present moment.


Certainly part of this is a cultural problem, which is part complacency and part ignorance as to what's actually going on. Laws aren't going to necessarily change that, but they can step in as a last resort when culture doesn't end up addressing fundamental problems of social health or rights issues.

The social media companies effectively propagandize ordinary communication for whatever's most profitable, and the effects can be individually subtle, with large overall effect. While this tends to be accepted at the for-profit media creation level, it seems quite inappropriate and socially unhealthy to apply these to personal communication on social media, because the cultural buy-in to these sorts of things means individuals put themselves into monopolized systems.

Social media is very new in the grand scheme of things, and there are things to figure out. Certainly education on these topics and their effects is important, and possibly more declarations of rights (as opposed to specifically prescriptive regulations) of people's personal communications might be in order.


It's not like they are pointing guns at people, are they?


Facebook and Google alone could effectively change "facts" to suit their political agendas. They alone could easily heavily influence the democratic process all over the world. That is far more dangerous than some guys with guns.


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> the hundred million people butchered in the 20th century by governments with guns is better than

Would you please stop posting like this to HN? Ideological flamewar tropes are not welcome here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

s2g 5 months ago [flagged]

Yes, far more dangerous.

Control information and you control the populace. You don't need to use guns because the people don't know whats going on, you can prevent people from organizing, you can use misinformation and propaganda to control people. Control of information and control of speech is a massive amount of power. I'd rather google had access to a few nukes, honestly.


Yes, but they are only controlling core forms of communication that they themselves built.




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