I would also support laws requiring that these social media platforms a) protect consumers' data b) don't censor beyond what the law requires minimally. But it might be easier to go the competition route.
I have come to the admittedly sad conclusion that you can't reside in the middle here. I mean, you can idealistically, but slope will slide to one side or the other in practice. At least at this time I think you can ask for government interference or not. I would like to think that you could trust each side to know its boundaries, as we see in other regulated industries, but time has shown either side cannot. Which side would you want to give an inch to, because a mile will be taken (or according to some doomsayers it already has)?
I'm not sure this has to be an all or nothing thing. We have some reasonable protections built into the Constitution and case law that back that up.
I understand your hesitation about having the government involved as there are plenty of examples of government influence on the media around the world. I share the same fears.
With that said, do we really have any real world proof that the US government in recent years has over stepped its boundaries in regards to media restrictions?
But in general I don't think you can compare broadcast mediums to bidirectional ones (e.g. words on the telephone or text on the internet).
They’ll write the rules together, make the barriers to entry even higher, and pat each other on the back.
Then it’s on to the next moral panic, this one’s been fixed!
The US government hasn't censor broadcast media much given that most broadcast media owned by large corporations with ties to the state themselves.
And there's no reason that government wading into regulating Facebook could do anything remotely sane. A lot of Facebook's scandals have nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with filtering bias. When state agency is going to be qualified to regulate that?
You won't want a random foreign government censor your speech.
Why is okay when the US authorities shut down a site because of some bullshit DMCA violation that the rest of the world shouldn't be subject to?
I wouldn't be so pessimistic. Off the top of my head, a number of industries are regulated / heavily regulated and thrive: media; air travel; automotive; transportation of dangerous goods; medicine / dental / veterinary; legal practice.
The internet is now at the maturity level where it's ready to be locked down so Facebook, Google and maybe 1-2 other players can be cemented as the dominant players for decades to come through regulations ostensible there to stop them from becoming too powerful.
It's called "Regulatory Capture", and it's one of the most important concepts to understand to grasp how the modern world works.
Regulation is not as black and white as you are painting. Plenty of regulations do good things, because people can't be trusted to act with a social conscience when profit is their motive.
Indeed. I think the argument ventured is that it is burdensome to the point that only the big established players can bear
This is one of those sentences that sound logical, until you start thinking about it.
The fact that people sometimes do bad things in no way proves that regulations do good things. If anything, it's an indication that regulations might also be bad, since they are made by people.
Often the same people who are being regulated, believe it or not...
The powerful or the powerless?
Some regulation can form regulatory capture, but other regulation can enforce an open, accessible marketplace.
Facebook etc are more akin to broadcasters in terms of sharing ideas than they are akin to a telecom company offering communications infrastructure.
It’s not difficult to create a website to share the same ideas. In fact, it’s already done.
Openness is already there.
Otherwise I agree.
I don't see evidence that there is no middle ground here. Facebook and Google filter a lot of content. But that is filtering and not absolute control and there are significant other sources for those who want them.
State regulation would, however, produce a situation where everything remotely like a filter would be exposed to whatever regulation was implemented and that would in fact be a tremendous advantage for these same large players.
Especially with 'AI-based filtering', which blurs the lines on what is filtered and why, these companies have both significant discretion and plausible deniability when it comes to censoring content.
In South Africa Twitter is huge. In Germany, Facebook is. Instagram is big in the UK. Now take the possibly not unusual scenario in which a South African lives in London and has family in Germany.
Granpappy in Berlin would search for his grandson in London from Facebook but finds him on Instagram. He'd add the grandson as a friend and see the grandson's Instagram photos in his Facebook feed.
The South African guy in London searches Instagram for his nephew in South Africa, and finds him on Twitter. And sees that Twitter account's posts in Instagram.
If someone on Facebook finds me on Instagram, Instagram could notify me that Mr. X is searching for a profile that matches mine, and ask if I want to allow access to my stuff. If I decline he can't. Federation, with user control and consent.
I think it could work. And even if it was useful to a tiny monitory at least there's real choice. Inclusive of all.
I can see how it should be easy to send content from foo#twitter.com to bar#facebook.com as individual messages, format issues not withstanding, if foo and bar have agreed to correspond. But which end would manage the existence of that relationship and push/pull the data?
Maybe it needs third-party brokers to do it?
Interestingly I can see some parallels here with the current status of banking in the UK. After centuries of operation as "closed systems" there are now rules to force banks to provide APIs so that new entrants can offer inter-operation services. Maybe in a hundred years social-media companies will be forced to do the same? ;-)
Also, such federation, if not open to third parties (easy to justify with spam, malicious parties, etc) can actually strengthen the current big platforms against competition.
There are a lot of platforms out there today. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit and Whatsapp are all huge. Plus there are smaller players like Tumblr, Viber, Telegram and plenty of regional players. The only anti-trust error was allowing Facebook to buy Instagram and Whatsapp. But that was a result of poorly enforcing existing laws not a regulatory gap.
They shouldn't be able to pick and choose who gets access to what APIs and under what terms.
Everyone gets the same terms or no one does.
So, I get what you are saying.. but what kind of monopoly tactics are twitter/facebook actually doing? In my view it's virtually nothing.
Let's ignore facebook since it wasn't exactly first to market with myspace before it (although it was first to market in "this has your real name attached"), and talk about twitter.
Twitter had a fairly unique idea, you can post public messages that are very limited in scope. They were first to market on that- and that's why everyone uses it. What is stopping twitter clones from popping up? Absolutely nothing. Many people who read HN could easily make a suitable twitter clone. But would anyone use it? Pretty much no. Why? Because people like to centralize their technology as much as they can to make it actually useful.
What a pain in the ass it would be if you had 4 different twitter equivalents that you were trying to use.. or try to remember "oh friend A is on twitter1, Friend B is on twitter3" etc.
Now, yeah people still do this do a degree of course.. some friends might be on facebook, others twitter. So of course this segregation still exists but it's generally for products which are different in scope.
Anyway- my point is it's people and the marketplace have decided "1 facebook is OK" "1 twitter is OK". Arbitrarily trying to break them up is not what people even want. Paranoid people might think that's what people want because all they can see is the possibility of censorship and security stuff, but 95% of people just want to use something that works and they can connect with people without everything being a pain in the ass.
You are correct - monopolies are defined to control the supply of something to manipulate prices and hurt consumers.
The problem with these platforms is not that they are anti-consumer, the problem is that they are anti-competitive because they control the entire audience that a product can be sold to. This results in the commoditization of suppliers (eg news, books, etc.) and reduces competition in the distribution space of the economy that targets consumers.
It's a different way to think about it because it's a new concept in our modern world, but the mental model that I've seen is that there are three stages of creating something and selling it to a consumer:
1. Supplier / Manufacturer
In the old days, monopolies controlled supply and distribution, which resulted in consumers being hurt. Now, "aggregators" control distribution and the consumer, which leads to suppliers to drive down their costs or not even participate in the consumer space.
I HIGHLY recommend reading about aggregation theory on Stratechery to get a deeper understanding of this as Ben Thompson does a great job in explaining why the FANG companies do what they do: https://stratechery.com/2015/aggregation-theory/
It can be solved with interoperability. If it is not a problem for mobile networks - phone calls and text messages, why would it be problem for social networks?
Mandating open communication between these services would help to break this monopoly and possibly just naturally evolve into the idealistic goal diaspora was aiming for, small networks of social groups that have news feeds floating between them and the ability to pick and chose from locally hosted and separately hosted feeds.
More precisely, The fact that you can't read and reply to someone's tweets on a clone, due to Twitter's terms and conditions, and copyright law (enforced by states).
1. Popularity follows an extreme power law, so the number of people that would need to move is smaller than you'd intuitively think
2. Fads change relatively quickly, so it's not even necessarily about getting people to move, but about getting the next generation to invest somewhere else
3. The big players are extremely metrics driven, so if people feel like the tide is shifting, the transition from trickle to deluge could be shockingly fast
It's not all theoretical - Instagram created an entirely new network effect very quickly, and only FB's ability+willingness to gobble it up kept it from being another major player. But the next thing will come soon enough (less than 10 years for sure, probably less than 5), and then the dynamics of the space depend on the whims of a South American butterfly (or SF Biz Dev)
That's a very good counterexample.
and on and on. Basically forcing interoperability means a huge slowdown on innovation as you can't add anything without a committee and years of negociation
It could be as simple as not actively thwarting crawlers. Or in your example, they provide everything they have as an API and it’s up to the competitors to adapt to whatever features they provide. In which case, other companies can focus on the lowest common denominator and making that interoperable.
It’s not perfect or seamless, but the baseline isn’t that hard, and that’s good enough for most people.
And it’s funny you bring up messaging, for many years it was interoperable across many services via XMPP and it worked pretty well, until everyone decided it was in their competitive best interest to silo it. We really haven’t gained much in terms of innovation in that space since then, in many ways it’s much worse.
Just exempt 'small' services from the rule. Maybe this will kick some of the get big at all cost behavior that's permeated tech companies recently in the teeth.
To bring it down to a populist formula: Why not make a law that requires the interoperability/federation of social networks? We have laws that set requirements for restaurants... why not for social networks?
One way to achieve that would be to require that platforms for user-generated content make that content available on open protocols, such as ActivityPub and RSS.
> I would also support laws requiring that these social media platforms [...] don't censor beyond what the law requires minimally
Then they wouldn't be allowed to ban spam, which would be a regressive step.
There’s several assumptions here (for example: more platforms will mean better ‘X’), but how would that link with the actual issues being faced by society vis-a-vis social media?
If you're operating a business you fundamentally need that control.
The platform you're talking about it the internet. It already exists. You can use it to say whatever you want within law. If you use someone else's servers to do so they can boot you, just like I can kick someone out of my house.
If there's interoperability between networks, then no one network can become dominant via momentum only, and has to actually provide value to users, and prevents lock-in.
I definitely want the US, with their strong ideas of free speech, to be the ones controlling those platforms. Because, as they are now, they are severely restricted.
Free speech does not mean a guaranteed platform for your ideas, unless you are the owner of the platform.
The freedom of speech is specifically protection from government censorship. E.G., If you're publishing a newspaper the government can't come by and tell you what to say in it. The newspaper can publish (or not publish) anything they want.
If you take my suggestion (in 19168078), you end up with: "The freedom of speech is specifically protection from government censorship. E.G., If you're publishing <a site called Facebook> the government can't come by and tell you what to say in it. <Facebook> can publish (or not publish) anything they want." (For clarity, I agree with this 100%.)
The original post to which you replied (with expressed disagreement) said "The thing about strong free speech laws is that it protects facebook and twitter's right to censor." I also agree with that post 100%. It's your interleaved post's (19167743) first sentence in response to that ("You have a poor understanding of free speech.") that I disagreed with, given that that poster appears to hold the same point of view that you do immediately above.
Extorting the platform owner with implications that if they don't do as the government wishes they may compel them isn't exactly "freely given" consent.
The government has the ability to regulate many things, but threatening prior restraint of speech is a pretty bold claim, and perhaps content providers should call that bluff.
One of the big reasons these big companies censor things is because they're afraid of public backlash for being associated with certain types of content. If the government doesn't allow them to censor that content then the public wouldn't take it up with the platform.
I think maybe it would be good to draw from the physical world. I'm not a lawyer but IIRC some states (eg California) let you leaflet on private property like malls if they're open to the public... I wish I could recall details but applying a similar logic online could be interesting.
But any modifications of safe harbor would worry me greatly.
Whether liability and damages are assigned would depend on the details, but the principle is quite clear here.
Otherwise yes, it is quite possible to be liable for whatever happens on your private property. If drug deals are taking place between third parties in your house won’t you be liable? If you allowed those parties there you most definitely will be.
The governments most successful crackdowns regulate the intermediaries
So in graph theory, you look at the node you want to control and then take the complement and restrict the nodes in the complement, while prohibiting the target node from interaction with non-restricted nodes
there is no sanction on non-restricted nodes and no sanction on the behavior of the target node, with voluntary compliance entered into by the restricted nodes
Examples of this approach:
Accredited investor regulation (non-accredited citizens not prohibited from investing, businesses risk consequences)
Online gambling prohibition (citizens and online casinos not prohibited, voluntarily licensed financial institutions are prohibited from processing transactions)
Twitter and FBs issue is reliance and optimizing for engagement which leads to clicking and surfacing the most outrageous stuff at the expense of the ordinary.
Google search doesn’t have “an gagement problem”. They have black hat SEO problem, which is different, but they go beyond that and tweak some search results for political reasons. Not talking about terrorism or supremacy groups at all, but somewhat controversial social issues, (reproductive) sometimes tame issues (searching for candidates). The EU has fined them for “re-ranking” SERs and SSE effects.
>These data showed that Google’s search results favored Hillary Clinton (whom I supported) in all 10 positions on the first page of search results — enough, perhaps, to have shifted two or three million votes in her direction over time.<
Given that, 2-3MM vote swing (vs, what the outside estimate was under 50k votes for Russian bot sway), I’d say Google is the real problem in affecting democratic elections.
So, while his conclusions might be disingenuous, his assertions (manipulation) can be independently confirmed.
>Is there evidence of actual favoritism in Google’s search engine? Well, the European Union certainly thinks so, having fined Google $2.7 billion last year for having biased search results.
The fine was for an anti-trust ruling, where it was determined Google was promoting their own shopping results (showing them at the top of the page) over organic shopping sites, stifling competition. Favoritism for their own service, maybe, but nothing to do with pushing or manipulating results.
So that's why I suspected he had an agenda to push and was willing to spin the truth to argue for it.
You can argue that study  showed Google tended to have more Clinton-favorable results, but I don't personally think that shows manual manipulation. It's worth a critical read--in Issue 7, he seriously alleges that Google somehow realized this study was being conducted halfway through, and started serving unbiased results to subjects with Gmail accounts. If you accept that conclusion, okay, but I'd tend to believe that the results aren't as statistically significant as claimed.
Here's a read of some of the things they do out of legal obligation and other they do for selfish reasons and others for other reasons they believe are worthwhile: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_by_Google#Search_su...
compare an autocomplete search for sarah joeng, robert muller, or roger stone on google, ddg and bing and look at SSE results. Bing DDG show relevant political issues, Google is coy about those.
Why not start with relaxing the federal laws which forbid the development of third-party applications?
The limits on third-party apps are legal, not technical. It is not technically challenging to build an application that collects Facebook credentials and then presents alternative views and features. It could, for example, finally be possible to see a time-ordered view of your friends' posts (Facebook doesn't allow this since it reduces engagement).
The development of such applications would serve as a threat and check on the market dominance of Facebook. A popular third-party application could consider adding its own features that Facebook does not have. It would also reduce Facebook's revenue.
What stops this? In the US, it is primarily the CFAA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Fraud_and_Abuse_Act). Once Facebook formally tells a company to stop accessing their servers, they are in violation of federal law if they continue to do so.
It seems premature to pursue legal action while we still have federal laws that encourage and cement the dominance of a single provider.
Am I missing something? This has always been a feature on Facebook right? I might be crazy but I thought that this was the only way I've been using FB for years. They call it "Most Recent" News Feed, isn't that the same as "time-ordered"? I'm quite sure they more than "allow it", they spend significant money on supporting it.
> It seems premature to pursue legal action while we still have federal laws that encourage and cement the dominance of a single provider.
Why? The laws are generally meant for different things (protecting trademark/quality of service/etc issues, vs. destabilization of society by having too much direct influence.
We can - and must - do more than 1 thing at at time, it's not premature to take action on Thing A while Thing B is still in-progress.
Go back 5-8 years ago, and I might have felt like Facebook and Twitter were unstoppable monopolies. Nowadays I feel reasonably confident that post-millennial generations are going to widely abandon Facebook. And I feel reasonably confident that as Mastadon matures, it will take an increasingly large amount of market share from Twitter.
Mastadon in particular is surprising to me, because I did not think it was going to work. And sure, it's still minuscule right now, but I'm willing to bet that usage is going to steadily trend upwards. Right now, you kind of need to care a lot to switch to Mastadon, but there exists a tipping point where the user base becomes big enough that for certain communities it makes sense to just switch en-mass.
I think people underestimate how hard it is to get a small-to-medium number of users to switch off of a network, and overestimate how hard it is to get everyone to switch off of a network.
I guess I'm willing to bet that the fake news/foreign bots panic will last longer than those platforms, but I also can't think of how regulation is ever going to fix that. Maybe in Europe, but in America 1st Amendment protections are going to get in the way. Facebook has more power to ban hate speech and bots right now than it would if it were a public utility.
You are probably forgetting Instagram and WhatsApp which completely dominate the respective market. There is literally no competition for Facebook at all.
I'm not sure I agree that those apps are untouchable, but I would agree that Facebook as a company is in a much stronger position than Facebook as an individual product, and the company is probably a long ways from going away.
What can the goverment do to help prevent foreign interference with domestic elections via social media? If Facebook is a natural monopoly what regulations would make it's use more fair? They suggest a user's bill of rights, but only one item that would fit in it. A bill of rights naturally would include multiple items. To make matters worse the ToS lets users know how their data might be used which is the only item suggested for the user's bill of rights.
All companies in the United States are subject to a barrage of regulations. In my opinion some are good and some aren't. Purposing more regulations without the details of what those regulations are is like a blank check.
It's a short opinion declaration piece by design.
Though, I agree it would've been better with more detailed advocacy.
Only once there's a huge ground swell can specific proposals be laid down.
But all this is makes it sound like a giant power grab. And yes, that's what I'd call it. Not because all regulation is bad but because this particular thing is far outside the purview of the Federal Government.
And then force any company paying for political advertising to list every single one of their donors publicly. Chuck an unlimited personal liability clause in there for the company directors, so they can't just wind the company up to avoid any fines.
But within the context of newspapers and op-eds, you need to treat them separately.
So the argument that it's a purely private platform is getting harder to make than just the Facebook use-case where "all my friends use it", which you could also say about iPhones, or Coca-Cola. Should a private company be allowed to ban you from what's becoming a de-facto platform for interacting with officials?
But the article lazily likes to pretend that this problem could be solved within the borders of the US with proposed FCC regulation. That still leaves the most interesting problem, which is how are we going to square the free and open Internet with the interests of nation states and their individual citizens.
There's complaints about Russian election interference. But right now US-sponsored election interference is happening in Venezuela via Twitter. What's to be done about cases like those? Is Venezuela's only recourse going to be to ban Twitter?
I wonder if we're eventually going to have a global internet and then smaller nation or region-based "internets" that people use for most of their daily internet-use. It certainly seems like the internet is fracturing right now and this topic is another reason for it.
Do you have a source for that?
What I would like to see is a requirement for platforms to be open, so they can't take data and networks of people hostage by locking things down. An analog is portability of healthcare data: one hospital or EMR vendor can't lock up data for themselves, they must make it open to others (though they still drag their feet and don't always make it convenient).
The best thing about the internet is that it is so easy for another product to spring up to serve a new need or compete with ensconced businesses.
Regulations increase cost of business and dissuades other companies from competing.
It's about how so many are in favor of "taxing the rich", not realizing that to Middle America with an average household income of $70K, if you make over six figures, you are "the rich".
And from the political skew of HN, I wonder how many actually trust this government with more power?
You have to consider what you're trusting them to do.
I trust organizations to act in my interest so long as our interests align. It is the difference between allies and friends.
Don't like how Facebook runs its data collection on you whether you have an account or not? Tough. There's no, and will never be, a town hall for Facebook.
Don't like how the county runs its health services departments? Well, you can show up at county council meetings, you can get involved politically, you can vote, etc.
But if you live in a larger state like California, you have much less say in the federal government on a per capita basis than someone who lives in Rhode Island between the Senste (2 senators per state regardless of population) and the electoral college, not to mention gerrymandering.
Browsers can block that quite easily.
> and affecting the society you live in
And people are becoming more aware of how that happens, and developing tools to control and expose that, and at the end of the day people can choose to use it or not.
> At least the government is accountable through elections.
Not particularly, no.
I feel far, far more enfranchised in my ability to choose what voluntary associations I form. I know I'm not the only one.
How? That's not possible. Facebook knows where you are and what you're doing, etc, without you even having a computer or smartphone at all. Your friends or their friends will already upload your address, phone number, contact info, etc.
When you go out in public and you get caught in the background of someone else's photo, that you might not even know is being taken? They might post that to FB or Instagram, and then boom, FB gets another data point to analyze and find out where you go and what your habits are.
"Browsers" can't block what Facebook does to track users, not even close. That would be a trillion-dollar-invention.
> And people are becoming more aware of how that happens,
Are they? I don't think they are. I think people are grossly misinformed about how the data is collected.
> and developing tools to control and expose that
Who is? I know of no serious efforts to meaningfully reduce the data FB is able to collect.
> and at the end of the day people can choose to use it or not.
No they cannot. None of these services or companies are opt-in. You have profiles with them long before you sign up. You are being manipulated and studied and watched and you have no choice about it.
Yes, "accountable". Quotes here because voter suppression, disenfrachisment and aggressive gerrymandering are all things that really make me wonder about the substance of accountability ala plebiscite.
And no, I am not throwing out any babies or bathwater here.
Perhaps over a certain size, companies should be somehow required to provide the public some amount of voting power on their board, absent a financial interest in the company’s results.
Choose not to do business with them. Advocate that others not do business with them. Encourage employees to leave or change things. Work with companies you can influence to avoid doing business with them. Create competition, whether as a business or as a new technology that obsoletes theirs. There are many, many things you can do that have far more likelihood of enacting meaningful change, and that have nothing to do with being a shareholder.
The likelihood of success in such methods depends heavily on the ability to get others to agree with you and take action.
This has no effect whatsoever. You can try but it won't matter. You make money for Facebook and Google even if you spend every waking hour trying not to do so. Your very existence - that you have opinions, ideas, that you go places, spend money, etc- is sufficient for these businesses to choose to do "business" with you without your knowledge. They'll take things you thought were yours and then use that to sell ads to other companies.
> Advocate that others not do business with them.
Again, this won't matter one bit. This kind of change takes decades to propagate throughout society, way slower than is necessary to avoid damage done.
> The likelihood of success in such methods depends heavily on the ability to get others to agree with you and take action.
So none of your ideas will work. The 'markets' are broken when looking at long-term financial gain through sustainable growth and consumer choice. Do not look to broken-since-inception-on-purpose "models" to dictate how you think a modern economy should function.
Your dismissal is not a counterargument. These approaches have worked in the past, multiple times, with many different companies, to enact change. They may or may not work every time. And on the flip side, in some cases not everyone will agree that they should work. Your position of what should happen to these companies is not necessarily a universal position.
Oh sorry, I didn't mean to dismiss. I was trying to say that if your conclusion/mechanism to enact change depends on the success of convincing individual people do take action, it is unlikely to succeed for these reasons:
- People converse slowly, especially on awkward topics like privacy. Opinions change slowly.
- Propaganda and willingness of huge corporations to try to alter public opinion is huge, growing and already very intense. There is little historical analogue for it because so much power is concentrated so tightly now, with tools that completely change the balance of power (like AI, big data analytics, etc).
> They may or may not work every time.
Right. But we only have 1 shot at this and it needs to work. Our systems have already failed and our society is suffering because of it. Our government is not stable, our emotions are proudly directly manipulated by corporations, and we are hurting because of it.
We must regulate because we cannot afford future losses of this magnitude.
And yet you're suggesting government regulation that moves more quickly, which implies that the government shouldn't wait that conversation and consensus to happen. (Leaving aside whether the government should do it even if people do support it, it certainly seems even worse to do it if there isn't such a consensus.)
> But we only have 1 shot at this and it needs to work.
You are presuming agreement with your premise. And you are furthermore presuming that the resulting regulation will work, and will not cause worse damage. (And where does "only have one shot at this" come from, here?)
"The government should exert control over one of the most popular communications mediums" is a terrifying proposition, with the potential to support a huge amount of damage. I don't think it's a given that that damage would be less than the problem it's trying to solve.
That's right. If the government waits for a consensus, it will never arrive. No action will be taken and society will crumble.
> (Leaving aside whether the government should do it even if people do support it, it certainly seems even worse to do it if there isn't such a consensus.)
Why does it seem worse? The entire premise of not having a full democracy is that sometimes the people are not capable of determining what will help the country prosper in 20-50 years. We elect a body of smart people to help set these courses. It seems obvious and built-in to the system that the government must occasionally pass unpopular legislation.
> You are presuming agreement with your premise.
This is all past-tense though. All of this has already happened, is fact now, and so I feel 100% comfortable stating things that agree with history, as fact that agrees with my points. We have already lost our democracy and a lack of regulation is very clearly at fault, both in electoral law and in tech regulation.
> And you are furthermore presuming that the resulting regulation will work, and will not cause worse damage
I will happily invite studies on this. But there is significant work already that shows that power corrupts, that greed has no end, that we live in a tragedy of the commons where unrestricted markets do not produce optimal outputs for the population.
> I don't think it's a given that that damage would be less than the problem it's trying to solve.
Given the absolutely immense damage that has already occurred, I disagree. I think it is a given that regulation would solve far more problems than it would 'cause'.
I didn't say "unanimous", I said "consensus".
> as fact that agrees with my points.
You are jumping from a set of events that took place to presuming what specific action should occur in response. The former are facts, the latter requires actual arguments and support.
> there is significant work already that shows that power corrupts
On that we agree. Which leads me to entirely different conclusions.
I don't especially want to pursue this further; I don't think any new arguments are likely to arise.
No matter someone's political views, it surprises me when people are willing to trust the government with more power as long as their party is in control, while forgetting that their party will not always be in control. Before assigning a new power to government, consider whether you'd trust the opposing party to wield it.
For some things I would trust the government over states. If Gay Marriage was left up to the states, there would still be a large amount of states that would gladly ban it. Yet people feared any sort of laws or regulations surrounding gay marriage being passed as a way of the government usurping power.
I would certainly consider federal regulations saying "states may not prevent X" (and in turn state regulations saying "cities may not prevent X") a good thing. That's not an increase in power, that's an intentional ceding of power.
You already see full well how much the government disagrees with its critics on what's considered fake news or not. Don't they realise it'd probably be pro Breitbart/pro Infowars regulation there, with the main targets being those outlets they support?
Same goes for this social media regulation stuff. You won't get a crackdown on 'Russian propaganda', since the elected government over in the US does't believe it is an issue at all.
Government agencies don't stay very independent either, and even if they do, you have no guarantee they'll do what you think is right at all. See net neutrality and Ajit Pai.
So yeah, their party won't always be in control and in a lot of cases, their party isn't in control right now anyway.
When you fight to pass a law that will create new government institutions and regulations and grow it in size, you're advocating the granting of more power to government. You are in control of whether you choose to advocate that or whether you choose to say "this could be abused".
Government is the ultimate example of needing to consider yourself part of the threat model of your system.
Regulation is one of the best ways for incumbents to build a competitive moat against prospective new entrants.
1) median is a better metric to use than average for this sort of thing
2) an average of 70K with two incomes is not at all impressive. a single person making 6 figures is doing incredibly well, compared to the average household.
I was actually off the 50th percentile is actually around $60K
Why, though? This line of thinking does not work in a modern, connected society. You can not any longer choose to avoid these services, and you will still be affected. Personal consumer choice may take decades to play out in the market, as people take time - a lot of time - to identify and address risks in a rapidly changing environment like tech and social.
We all have Facebook profiles whether we want to or not - and this means that individual choice no longer means anything about whether or not the company survives. The market reacts very slowly. Are you willing for humanity to suffer from consequences we can identify and fix, but choose not to while we let the 'market' decided?
Externalities are not priced in to the price of pollution and the damages done by climate change. The 'market' does not select for an optimal solution by anyone's definition here or with social/web.
By letting the 'market' decide, you are directly allowing and accepting that billions of dollars of propaganda, meant to shape public opinion through the use of logical fallacies, scare tactics, etc, would end up being the deciding factor in how social media works. You'll end up with billionaire interests being 'market-encouraged' while the regular people will have no voice.
> The best thing about the internet is that it is so easy for another product to spring up to serve a new need or compete with ensconced businesses.
This doesn't seem true to me at all. If anything, the Internet is the most intrenched-money-takes-all platform we have. I think you are mistaken when it comes to your optimism about how the web works.
> Regulations increase cost of business
I think this is false. Regulations increase the sustainable lifetime of a business by providing a stable market to operate in for decades.
> and dissuades other companies from competing.
I think this is also false. Regulations create opportunities for sustainable business, and do not dissuade from real value creation.
Facebook, etc., can easily purchase any social network that gains significant traction, and has done so multiple times in the past.
How do you solve for that?
Please identify how "alternatives" can displace an entrenched monopoly without regulatory interference?
Is your solution just wait for FB to fail?
A smart regulation would simply to require transparency or as someone mentioned elsewhere in another comment, a requirement for federation using some standard - ie, removing those monopoly barriers.
Show me how the market self-regulated to properly treat a customer’s data.
The Public: I'm on board with that!
Congressperson then introduces a bill that imposes regulations that benefit Congressperson's generous donors, while resulting in an even bigger shitshow than before for the public.
The Public: WTF, man?!
Congressperson (if Republican): That's what happens when you let "big government" and stifling regulation go unchecked! Who's up for repealing the Clean Air Act?
I personally am tired of watching Twitter, Facebook, Google, and others give the impression that they didn't know fake accounts were being used to manipulate the actions of individuals--either to hate someone, vote against someone, send money, download a virus--as this seems to be the storied history of spam. I'm tired of interacting with someone who appears real but may be fabricated to trick me into doing something. This problem is not slowing down, as the This Person Does Not Exist site showed us the other day here.
I yearn for the tech company that creates a platform where I interact with people who are verified to be who they say they are. Please, tech companies, let people verify their accounts. Let the overall verified users on your platform increase. Please do something before regulators step in so that they don't believe they have to.
And how do you stop retaliation against non-popular options, like homosexuality in particular countries?
> You do use them, even if you didn't sign up or agree to it, you do use their services. Your contact info is already there and every chance FB or whoever gets to learn something new about you, they take it.
That's what I mean by "Write privacy regulation." That's separate from the whole news/propaganda/content thing.
And the "first they came..." poem is a ridiculous comparison. I'm not laughing about the oppression of people who have beliefs or traits they stand up for. I'm laughing about people who don't like an unnecessary product but aren't willing to walk away.
Trusting those clearing houses to regulate themselves is a mistake, because they have already abused their power for their own ends (profit).
We should never trust any organisation to work against its own interests or those of its members. They must all be required to be utterly transparent in relevant actions and reasoning behind those actions.
While nobody likes speech that they don't agree with, or feel is vitriolic against one's own ideology, it's exactly that speech which needs to be protected. PC outrage is maximizing online censorship in ways that should send chills down anyone's spine.
Also, similar provisions ensuring that policies against classes of speech are used regardless of backing ideology.
And if anyone is going to be using social media to manipulate public opinion in the US, it should be the US government, goddamnit!
Every major technology platform in the West exists as result of small-l liberal enlightenment values. Maybe I wouldn't name the current United States as my ideal champion for those values, but I don't have any problem with the general suggestion that Western tech companies should be promoting liberal values around the world.
Yes, maybe that is alarmist, after all they are only concerned about corporate influence, but this isn't the first time in Facebook history where you could just accuse someone of being a bot to shut them up if you don't like what they say.
Yes, maybe that is alarmist, after all they are only concerned about foreign influence, but this isn't the first time in US history where you could just accuse someone of being a Russian agent to shut them up if you don't like what they say.
I think we know that with all kinds of foreign media ownership with diverse interests makes Russia a moot subject, except Russia does it by subversive methods rather than overt accepted methods.
It's not illegal (a violation of civil or criminal law) in most jurisdictions.
It's a slam dunk lawsuit though. There's basically just strict liability for any harm that comes of it (yes, I know I'm over-generalizing). Being liable for damages caused by making damaging false statements is basically the court forcing you to accept personal responsibility and making you make it right. Actions that constitute libel rarely violate a civil or criminal law (in the US). A lot of things are slam dunk lawsuits that aren't illegal (e.g. breach of contract).
You're in luck, the legislature (where regulations are supposed to come from) is a whole separate branch from the President. Any time you've got the executive branch handling it, the President is in charge of it.
Multinationals had to deal with multiple regulations before, but most time that was solved by using the visitor's residency, but that might not be so clear cut when we are talking about social networks.
I was just thinking I hadn't seen a picture of Ajit Pai's ridiculous coffee mug for like 15 minutes now.
I find this very irritating, and we see it also with Donald Trump, where it suddenly becomes okay to body shame someone, make suggestive comments about their relationship with their wife or children, or attack them in other ways unrelated to their politics, because of their politics. I wouldn't say I'm a fan of either individual by any means, but I think we should aim to do much better, especially here on HN. Can we talk about a corporate-owned bureaucrat and an incompetent president as a corporate-owned bureaucrat and an incompetent president?
Imagine a single company selling 90% of all tv ads in the country? Or a single company selling 90% of all the ads in newspapers.
Email is a means of communication, twitter is a platform. Anyone is free to implement a 140 character messaging service, the only problem is that these particular social media platforms have gotten monstrous. I don't like them, but the comparison between HTTP and Facebook doesn't seem right.
Solving the monopoly problem indirectly solves (or at least reduces the severity of) other problems. When one big bad actor gets reduced to twelve small actors, when one of those actors acts badly it's a smaller problem.
It doesn't matter that there's a Facebook clone that you can migrate your profile to, when nobody you want to talk to is using it.
If the answer is no, then no amount of Facebook->Mastodon migration legislature is going to make a compelling case to switch, and the network effect will keep me in the Facebook ecosystem.
Just like telcos are now. Keep your phone number and move to another provider.
In other words, running with the grain of how the open web works best, rather than against it. Until that happens, I will never join FB or any other walled junkyard.
So now we're going to introduce the perilous hand of federal invention, and it's not to make gigantic companies pay their fair share, but to stifle speech?
Can we separate the "data storage" at this scale from the message delivery. Where de-platforming someone doesn't mean losing your hosting of the videos but instead pushes you to a fringe "subscription and recommendation" tool?
This is a massive hand waiving over simplification so please correct gross assumptions I'm making here.
Youtube has services that could be broken into separate "categories" if you would.
Platform to post videos.
Platform to subscribe to videos.
Platform for recommendations of videos.
Platform with "top" videos as watched by everyone.
Then you've got Google Search which doesn't control the data but caches it and it has a database of the inter-relationships between sites and you and can recommend sites to you. Up until they started customizing data to a user I'd say there was only one issue here. But now that they customize, you actually have two sets of data in search.
The Internet's interconnected relationships.
I don't know how you break this data apart in a reasonable way. I mean Google did create all of it or buy a platform and expand it in the case of YouTube. They deserve to be rewarded for their innovation (obviously my opinion) but we need an equal ability to compete.
I am obviously concerned when you can be "de-platformed" for a TOS violation and silenced. Especially when some of these platforms are so ubiquitous that being de-platformed from them all could completely silence an individual. But at the same time a company should have the right to choose who their customers are if there aren't fair regulations that address this.
So it's complicated and I think this sort of thing deserves a lot of conversation. I still think action isn't appropriate because if we did have twitter owned by the government we'd also need to keep free speech on there. It'd have to get a court order for data to come down as libel or something similar.
I don't think this is tangential... I don't think this necessarily resolves to a perfectly fundamental principle, in a philosophically loophole-free way. Maybe a newspaper isn't a good analogy.
Here's one example. A large portion of elected officials around the world communicates with (and mostly to) their electorate mostly on social media. It is how they get elected, argue positions, etc. The argument (I'm not sure I agree, but I think there's an argument) is that twitter, fb, etc have crossed some sort of the threshold where there is a lot at stake.
The twitter blast out by politicians is a new thing, that hasn't really existed before from what I can see. It's common to try to draw a parallel to something that arleady exists (like I did). I think you're right that my example was a miss.
I don't think it is a clear miss. The way we think of law, and right-and-wrong generally, tends to be principled. Rules and laws as embodiments of abstract principles that are consistently true.
That's what the analogy does is check for inconsistencies. That's what lawyers do, argue by analogy. High judges can invalidate laws if they create inconsistencies.
But... the laws aren't really abstract truths. They tend to be point solutions to specific problems.
Social media has created new realities that just didn't exist in as meaningful a firm before.
Personally, I'm happy that proprietary social media platforms just get replaced by open platforms a la WWW or email. There's no real reason to have a multi billion dollar company behind twitter, text messaging and such.
That'd make the choice between bureaucratic or monopolistic control moot.
That's not what free spech is about.
Free speech means that governments will not arrest you for what you say. It doesn't mean that you can say everything you want on a platform, run by a third entity, just as you can't demand to have an article by some crazy guy printed in a newspaper.
Dude. Full sentence quotes please. I should have used a comma.
Otherwise if you want to accept US money and manipulate US public opinions you can get put on lists of businesses that are prohibited to deal with.
"Law number XXXX: Google must offer a paid version of its search engine to end users".
Colluding? What the heck are you talking about?
Perhaps one saying that they cannot ban or block anybody or their content, except for content already deemed illegal by a governing body or upon receipt of a court order.
I don’t want the US or the UK to censorship my Internet, any more than I want China.
It’s bad enough that nudes are being censored due to US companies pushing the US conservative Christian values on the rest of the world, while violence gets a free pass.
Also do you really think that the fake news promoting Trump or Brexit would get censored? That would be so extremely naive.