Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Chris Hughes Says It’s Time to Break Up Facebook (nytimes.com)
542 points by tysone 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 288 comments

Better than breaking up social networks would be to force them to interoperate on an open protocol. When I first signed up for Facebook I was disappointed that only other Facebook users could see my account. Then when Google+ came on the scene I thought they'd worked out a way to interoperate with Facebook, but instead Google just wanted their own silo.

What we really need is for social networks to interoperate the way email from different providers does. Same goes for chat and audio/video communication. Rather than breaking up Facebook, mandate that they must provide access to other social networks. Use an open protocol, say, Mastadon.

Moxie Marlinspike, of Open Whisper Systems, had some pretty pessimistic things to say about how stagnant federated protocols become, and why they avoided that approach with Signal. https://signal.org/blog/the-ecosystem-is-moving/

End result: Signal is a real, usable tool, the recommendation of which is fully actionable security and privacy advice you can share with anyone who is capable of using WhatsApp.

Here's some HN discussion on the post, and a piece with counter arguments. The latter, I feel, misses the entire point of how urgent the need for usable privacy and security tools is.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11668912 https://gultsch.de/objection.html

There are definitely some good arguments on either side of the federation discussion, though I personally tend to lean more towards the Moxie side than the optimistic one.

That being said, a big part of me wonders if (assuming you could find lawmakers with enough technical literacy to propose it, which would be a pretty huge ask!) you might be able to get the best of both worlds by requiring sites like facebook to expose an API for programmatic access. That would solve the stangancy problems that Moxie highlights (not to mention sidestepping the need to get everyone to agree on any one protocol), whilst simultaneously forcing a whole lot of things to open up.

Alternatively: part of the reason these walled gardens exist is that they control the concept of identity. Not necessarily in the sense of "this is my profile", but more in the sense of authentication and authorization. If you moved that somewhere else -- say, in the browser -- it would make it much easier to build systems that are interoperable.

The problem with that approach is that while did result in fast delivery of a good product for the 12 people using signal, it’s not going to grow.

The problem with all newer systems is that they are identity based, which doesn’t scale down to all of the device/station use cases that phones exist for.

Yes, that is the problem, and someone is hopefully working on it.

But if you start looking at those '12 users', you should notice that that the need is extreme.

This includes drug people and at-risk populations like sex workers: I'm not happy until drugs and sex work are decriminalized globally, so I want to protect sellers and buyers, a partial reason why I participate as a Tor relay admin. Then there are journalists and politicians. Apps like Signal, Wickr, Wire and Threema aren't as much the ecosystem we want as the silos we deserve.

That said, you'd be surprised how easy a sell Signal is in some cases.

I've gotten a bunch of friends over to Signal, from the likewise end-to-end encrypted Whatsapp. And after a family crisis, where a friend of the family died, I explained how the metadata of a mostly dormant Whatsapp group lighting up suddenly could be interpreted.

Facebook knows we're a family of aging parents and grown-up, mostly independent 25+ kids, so there might be a crisis or emotions whenever there are big bursts of activity. A crisis might make people more susceptible to predatory ads.

This was enough to convince my folks. So, family chats are now on Signal. The app is good enough. Granted, my parents and siblings are active in professions related to either legal or social services, so they understand the need for privacy and my overall desire to curb stomp the online tracking industry.

I am guessing that you don't do street drugs, because signal is immensely popular with young people. I'm in the middle of millennial ages, and have dozens of contacts in my phone alone that are on signal. Often the first thing a new "guy" will ask is if the buyer has signal. Signal has absolutely normalized encryption for anyone that buys illicit things or does protest/organizing work.

Another example: what if cell phone carriers only let you talk / text with people on the same carrier network? Suddenly everyone would need to buy T-Mobile, or Verizon, or Sprint, just to talk to one another. Or carry 4 different sim cards, similar to having multiple accounts.

Sounds terrible? Good. That's what Facebook is doing now.

Back in the day when I had my first cell phone things were not that far from this. Except that usually it was free/cheap to call people that were on the same carrier and price to call other carriers was ludicrous.

The problem is that social networking protocols would inherently be much more complex than phone protocols (but it could be done). Moreover, some body would have to standardize those protocols as well as discovering some way of preventing spam. My hunch that I know get more spam on my phone number than either my email or my Facebook account because phones still have open points of entry.

I suspect there are two reasons we get more spam phone calls:

1. There's no effective signing on phone calls, so spoofing a phone number is easy. This makes it impossible to prosecute spammers.

2. There's no way to filter a phone call based on the content of the phone call before it arrives. It's possible to spoof senders on email and text messages as well, but it's also possible to filter these based on content before they reach your inbox. This isn't perfect, but it greatly reduces spam in text-based mediums.

The main reason is the telcos choose not to, because they make money on them.

You can eliminate ~95%+ of junk calls from the telco side.


The open protocol could start small and gradually grow over time, maintaining backwards compatibility.

The incentives aren't there, of course.

For starters, let's just have them open, and let the market figure out how to bridge them. With lessons learned from that, maybe we can come up with something working.

But even if not, it would already be a drastic improvement on what we have.

Facebook lets you share posts from Twitter and Instagram, not sure about what else

When you share a post on Twitter or Instagram, you're creating a Facebook share--this isn't an example of an open protocol in any way.

Umm, Facebook owns Instagram.

Except it takes 30 seconds and it’s free to open a facebook account. You can even use messenger without having a facebook profile.

Are you suggesting that there be an API to access social network information?

That is literally what Facebook had, and what people excoriate them over thanks to Cambridge Analytica. The Facebook haters are driving social network data into a silo; how else are you going to "keep control of your data"?

You can have privacy (or at least the illusion of privacy), or you can have access. You cannot have both.

Specifically here you're right, but the hypothetical that came to my mind when reading GP was in similarity with email.

I want to reach my friend Pete through "media". But I don't really care about his ad-relevant personality matrix, I just want the endpoint. The profile metadata is the aspect created and mistreated by FB, and abused by CA. I suppose scraping the proposed hypothetical API would be akin to getting a large list of valid emails, but it's not as useful for targetted agitprop.

And let's not forget the controversy from just five months ago where the nytimes reported (and dozens of other media outlets blindly re-reported) that facebook allowed companies like spotify, netflix, and the royal bank of canada to read, write, and delete our private messages. All because the nytimes's tech reporters don't understand how an API works. Or maybe they do, but the nuance doesn't fit with their current agenda.

The mass media is there to damage Facebook as much as they can, because Facebook is taking them out of business. Never forget that.

This sounds to me like a backwards argument. The Cambridge Analytica scandal revolved around unsanctioned access to data. I don't think the premise of having an API was the problem, it was the lack of transparency and control offered to Facebook's users.

unsanctioned access to data

You misunderstand what happened. 1) Users installed a quiz app, 2) Users explicitly accepted a permission dialog that included "information about your friends", 3) The quiz app saved this data, 4) Cambridge Analytica bought the app (and data).

If CA got your data, it's because one of your friends sanctioned the critical link in this chain.

Facebook at least provided this level of security, however illusory it may have been. In a decentralized system, anyone who touches a piece of data can pass it on to whoever they want. There is no way to enforce "my friends can look at my data but it's my data and they aren't allowed to pass it on".

Privacy advocates and decentralization advocates are mortal enemies; their only common cause is that it's popular to hate on Facebook these days.

How is that not unsanctioned access? I can't get a mortgage in your name just because we're friends.

Correct, but your friends are more than capable of backing up their log of emails with you and handing it over to someone else. How is it not your friend’s fault?

And CA “leak” was way more tame than this, just the information displayed on your profile for all of your friends.

I think you are taking an example of a very dark pattern to say that we can't come up with reasonable rules.

Does your data about your date of birth belong to you or to both you and your friends? Ostensibly, it's very personal information, hence only to you. Right now you can set the visibility of your birthday on facebook so you control exactly who sees it. If you set it to private, no one can see it. But supposing you set it to "Friends", would you be ok with your friends downloading this data and keeping a copy for themselves? They'd do that because they'd think it's "their" data, which should remain accessible even if they left Facebook.

I can see arguments both ways. Some folks would be ok with it (they're your friends) and others wouldn't (you can't change the privacy setting on data that's already been downloaded).

Similarly with friends list. A person's list of friends is probably "their" data, even if it has your name on it. Would you be ok with them downloading this information?

The trade-off between control of some users and the privacy of other users is a complex issue. Let's not pretend there are simple answers to this.

There's a social norm aspect to this. It would be nice if you were notified when your data or your data residing with your friends propagate to other parties, a paper trail if you will.

The Facebook haters are driving social network data into a silo; how else are you going to "keep control of your data"?

The implicit assumption here is that the only people who can control your data are big, centralized organizations. Instead of big companies making little people subject to DRM, what if we turned it on its head and gave control to the people? What if we made big companies subject to Digital Human Rights Management? Basically, we legislate that social media, tech companies, and government organizations use Trusted Execution engines to handle private/personal data, and the user gets the keys and gets to revoke access from those organizations.


Let's say I put all of my friends' birthdays in my calendar. Now the data has left the silo and I can reshare it with whoever I want. Just how is anyone going to revoke that ability?

This particular use of Trusted Execution is meant to be used against Large Organizations, not individuals. No one is going to revoke that ability in your example in the context of what I propose.

Also, it's not meant to be a complete solution by itself. It's meant to be a tool supported by other legislation. So it would totally be possible for Facecorp to crawl the web and put together a non-revokable database of private individual's information, outside of Trusted Execution engines. But to do so, they have to go to that effort, instead of just sweeping user data.

The problem is that Facebook controlled access to the API, not users. Given me the ability to control access to my social network information could be a good idea.

In the Cambridge Analytica Case users where asked "do you want to share your data with that Game/quiz?" And users agreed. For average users understanding that control is hard, especially if people with bad objects are on the other side.

Not just your (user X) data, but your friend's (user Y) data. What if the API had sent user Y a confirmation, like "User X just installed CAapp and wants to access your information. Allow or Deny?"

If you take the "social" part serious frind's data is essential. When playing a game it should compare to your friends on the high score list. When using a birthday calendar you want to see birthdays.

Having to ask the friends for approval doesn't scale.

There is the fundamental conflict between a social network platform and privacy.

Facebook should have to access my API to display anything about me as a member. An API where I decide to whom and how much what data is shared.

One would still need authorization to view a private profile...

I think the problem in general is that near monopoly services are "roach motels" for data. That makes it impossible for a competitor to come along and use the data you put into a service or platform. I am not talking about all data, I am saying the data that users actively entered into a service: pictures, videos, contact information, relationship status. Make a law that said if I upload data to your service, you have to have an API of a open format where I can download all of it again, and I can give permission to someone to download it in a practical format.

IMO that would do a lot to reduce the monopoly power of social networks and platforms like Youtube, and be fundamentally fair.

On Facebook's "Download your information", it says "Download a copy of your information to keep, or to transfer to another service". Is there another service to transfer to? Maybe something using ActivityPub like Mastodon? I can't find one.

There are third party apps that allow you to post to Facebook and check your Facebook status. Couldn't that other service post to Facebook and Mastodon on your behalf and read your friends profiles? I can't think of a reason it isn't technically possible for something like that to be created, but I haven't seen it created yet.

Nit: Mastodon isn't a protocol. ActivityPub[0] is the protocol.

[0] https://www.w3.org/TR/activitypub/

To add to this, anyone can turn their website into a social network using ActivityPub. For example, if you have a WordPress blog/site then you can use this plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/activitypub/. This then allows profiles from other networks such as Mastodon to follow, read and comment on your posts or statuses.

I've always found it disturbing how Gargron rarely makes any attempt to disabuse people of the incorrect notion that Mastodon was the start of, and the canonical example of, open and federated social networks.

If anyone deserves that sort of credit, it would arguably be Evan Prodromou and the original identica a decade ago. Though I could wrong, and unaware of anyone prior to him working on this sort of federated and open twitter clone.

sounds like terrible govt interference. Why would they give away their most valuable asset for free.

Because it creates an unfair advantage? If switching costs are high it enables monopolistic power just because of high amount of users, and not because of quality of the platform.

> What we really need is for social networks to interoperate the way email from different providers does.

And then things will get way, way worse than facebook, because nobody is there to censor anyone, and then the nytimes will be asking to censor the entire internet because reasons. No, please. Let people stick to facebook where they can be herded appropriately.

I disagree. But I'm not on any, nor use any, of Facebook's services. "It's Time to Break Up with Facebook" is a better title.

> We already have the tools we need to check the domination of Facebook. We just seem to have forgotten about them.

That evokes different ideas with me and I'm sure it does for many users of this site. We have the tools and capability to employ them to make alternatives. We're so focused on the dominance that we ignore the possibility.

> Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can.

This is incredibly naive. I haven't gone down the logical path to play this scenario out but my gut tells me that the hand that the government will force will be short-sighted and attack the symptom. The results may be worse.

WhatsApp and IG _were_ alternatives, but our timid regulators were happy to let FB buy them up. Naivete is thinking the free market can regulate itself. Markets are not naturally free. They only function when zealous regulators keep the gears well-oiled.

>WhatsApp and IG _were_ alternatives

Are they though? They're nearly completely separate products with different activities and goals. If WhatsApp and Instagram were never acquired, I don't see them actually being very different at all from the consumer's pov, though I see them being less successful businesses without Fb's ad network and infrastructure.

I don't think these two are actually competition for facebook, facebook is fundamentally a communication tool built on top of your genuine friends and family social graph, it has no true competitors to speak of.

Facebook's acquisitions have provided them with two new business lines, one of which has been immensely profitable for them, but I don't think its actually affected the social media market. Social media companies built on different social graphs (ie. linkedin for your professional graph, twitter for a unidirectional follower graph) or a niche, fundamentally different interaction model (ie. pinterest) still can exist and thrive. I think facebook could or could not acquire any of these, and they're raison d'etre would essentially be the same.

Facebook's privacy concerns are real, and worth having a conversation over, but I think the claim that they have monopoly power over social media as a whole is false.

I don't think you'd do any good breaking whatsapp or instagram our from facebook. Instagram would have a rough couple years detaching their infra and getting a sales force, but it would remain the same. WhatsApp may die unless its given an enourmous lump of cash to fund it as it finds a path toward profitability, but without fb's ad network it will probably never be a great business.

Overall, breaking up Facebook in the way the article says wouldn't really do much harm, but it wouldn't do much good either. And I think its an abuse of antitrust power to simply not let a company be an industry conglomerate and have multiple successful business lines.

> Are they though? They're nearly completely separate products with different activities and goals.

Yes. By Facebook's own admission, photos are the center of the Facebook core platform, along with the social networking properties - comments, likes, status signaling, feedback - of the service that surround photos.

Instagram was a dramatic threat to the center of Facebook: personal, social networked photo sharing, with the previously mentioned social qualities. It's the only serious, direct threat Facebook has faced since the early days of the network.

It's also worth at least $100 billion today. If you stripped Instagram off of Facebook, with how their metrics would now look (stagnant, weak, at risk of decline), I'd be skeptical Facebook would be worth more than $150 to $200 billion. Buying Instagram not only removed the only serious threat to Facebook that they've faced, it provided a dramatic moat that they could utilize for defense or drowning enemies (which is what they put it to use for in trying to kill or otherwise slow down Snapchat).

I agree with your second point but not with your first.

To the consumer, Instagram remains nearly completely decoupled from facebook except for friend recommendations and SSO. Instagram has a fundamentally different photo "culture" and most people don't spend time on instagram OR facebook, they simply use both for different things. On facebook I'll see 900 pictures of my cousin's new baby or graduation photos, on instagram I'll see travel/lifestyle/modeling shots. Instagram gave facebook a kick in the ass to get on the mobile train before it was too late, but I don't think it was ever a threat to facebook's core social graph model.

Back to your second point, I agree, Instagram is an enormously valuable business line for facebook. But i think its also true that facebook's infrastructure and Ad platform lead to a 2 + 2 = 5 situation for the companies. An independent instagram would likely be doing well, but not be as valuable as they are within Facebook. Sure, facebook would be worth $100B less without the ads it serves on instagram, but there's no law or moral imperative against one company having multiple, highly lucrative business lines that share certain overhead.

I see the instagram acquisition as more akin to Tata group acquiring Jaguar. Jaguar had a good brand and an interested demographic, but were a terribly run business leading to poor sales and quality issued. Tata buying them gave new life to the brand and they're now successful and standing on their own again. Instagram was always going to be some level of successful, but with facebook they're a juggernaut.

I think a lot of people have the idea that facebook acquired instagram as a defensive play to remove a direct competitor, but I don't think that they are direct competitors. Facebook and MySpace were competitors, both shooting for the generalized social graph, and Facebook won that fight, from then on being a natural monopoly in that space.

In the end they all compete for attention which is the only valuable limited resource everybody has.

From my (naive) observation it seems that facebook "the page" popularity has dwindled and people migrated towards messaging (be it the Messenger or WhatsApp) and instagram.

You may not be on Facebook but you can bet your friends or family have shared your contact info with them. And even if that exposure is limited, you can bet they’ve got a shadow profile of you.

Facebook’s shadow profile of me does not even begin to hold a candle to Google’s shadow profile of me.

And Google has been monetizing that profile for a lot longer than Facebook has.

So while we're at it we should look at breaking up Google as well.

I only use google for youtube and cloud print. I'd like to break up with the latter but I haven't figured out how (history says google will force this in the near future). YouTube has a lot of great content (mixed in with even more worthless garbage) that isn't elsewhere, so I can't figure out how I'd break up with it.

On the other side, Google is tracking you on a lot of sites unless you use measures to counter it.

True. I wish there was a good way to stop that.

A good AdBlocker (like uBlock Origin) is usually enough. Also the tracking protection of Firefox is not bad.

A custom router can do this for all devices on your network. That is what I use.

Do you carry your router with you all the time to provide a bridge to mobile networks?

So what?

You can't break up with your stalker.

If Facebook is building a data portfolio of you, which is highly likely, then you can't avoid them, which means the problems that arise from the practice still impact you, whether or not you want them to.


Having information about someone is fine. It's not stalking nor harassment when you're privy to their location, where they live and work, everyone they interact with, their conversation, every newspaper and article they read, and every purchase they make. But it's creepy especially if this information is collected surreptitiously. Why collect this information in the first place?

It becomes harassment when this information is used to target someone. It is stalking if this information is used to follow you around. It is literally "cyberstalking" when it does. If someone is tracking you, they are stalking you.

Every website owner who puts code from Google or Facebook is complicit in this tracking/stalking.

When everywhere you go banners are being put in your face with messages tailored prod your fears based on what is known about you. When psychological tests are carried out en-masse [0], this is harassment.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jul/02/facebook-...

> Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can.

Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can break it. Which would fix it.

Which will not. Only way is to revoke its business licence and ban him and his relatives founding any business partnerships (Mark for life, his relatives until 1 year after he dies).

Let's get something straight : you don't get to use the word "naïve" to qualify anybody but yourself after you've essentially said : "Facebook doesn't impact my life because I'm not on it".

Why just facebook? Why not Amazon, Google, JPM, Disney, etc?

"Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, says the company is so big and powerful that it threatens our democracy."

"threatens our democracy". I've heard this talking point so much that it has no meaning any longer. It's just another of the oft-repeated talking point created by PR firms as part of a propaganda campaign.

If facebook is truly that powerful that it "threatens our democracy", then it doesn't say much of our democracy does it? I'd say the people attacking the constitution and our rights are the real "threats to our democracy". Facebook is far down on the list of "threats to our democracy". I consider censorship, money in politics, the congressional-industrial-military complex, the israeli/saudi/chinese/etc influence in our economic, media and government institutions, globalism, etc to be far greater threats to democracy than facebook. If facebook was truly as powerful as he says, the establishment and their media wouldn't be attacking facebook as vigorously as they have been. Lets be honest.

If Chris Hughes, "co-founder" of Facebook truly feels this way, why doesn't he just created a competitor to facebook. It isn't that difficult to create a social media platform. Though it may be difficult to get users.

He talks directly about the effects that anti-trust action would have on Google and Amazon near the end of the article.

This is a piece about Facebook specifically. You shouldn't expect that he address every monopoly that should be broken up.

Any entity sufficiently large to lobby legislators or offer campaign donations can threaten democracy more directly, and in fact it happens every day.

but the "threatens democracy here" is equivalent to "but stupid and malicious people have a megaphone, and they are shouting things I dont want them to be shouting. dumb people are listening and i dont want them to be allowed to listen."

And further the problem is "I want my megaphone to stupid people to be it" rather than "we need an educated electorate for our democracy".

American democracy of fifty years ago had the mainstream press as gatekeepers. At the same time, you had a measure of the press taking it's job seriously, the state being separate from private industry and the education system producing an informed populace and the middle class having an material stake in the running of the society.

Today you see a decline in all this stuff alone with the rise of the Internet. Phenomena like anti-Vax movements and other conspiracy theories are certainly corrosive but if one is looking for analogies to this, one might look at the problematic politics of third world nations where wild rumors and demagogues have been a characterizing factor for a long time. And all the mainstream institutions of the US certain bear blame for allowing the "third-world-ization" of the US.

Google in particular. What makes a monopoly dangerous is when they control multiple links in the supply chain to push out competitors.

If Google owns Search, Gmail, Android, Analytics, Chat, Google Fi, Google Fiber, Chrome, GPay, etc... then they are able leverage one monopoly to establish monopolies elsewhere.

...and that is ultimately what is most destructive to Competition and consumer value. All of the above could be separate companies. Facebook gets a lot of bad press, but Google is the big danger.

> If Google owns Search, Gmail, Android, Analytics, Chat, Google Fi, Google Fiber, Chrome, GPay, etc... then they are able leverage one monopoly to establish monopolies elsewhere.

You're right that Google leverages its portfolio of services to get a foothold in other ventures, but not one of those listed above is a monopoly. There are solid and well-performing alternatives/competitors to nearly all of Google's services. Their (and Facebook's) online advertising business is another story.


I'm very happy to live in Canada, where Google Pay is completely irrelevant thanks to Interac. I can walk into any business with a payment terminal and know that my debit card will just plain work, no matter my back or credit union. And I can send money instantly online to anyone else who also has an account at a Canadian bank or credit union.

Of course, this means that my bank knows all my transactions, but not using a bank is orders of magnitude harder than not using Google.

> I consider censorship, money in politics, the congressional-industrial-military complex, the israeli/saudi/chinese/etc influence in our economic, media and government institutions, globalism, etc to be far greater threats to democracy than facebook. If facebook was truly as powerful as he says, the establishment and their media wouldn't be attacking facebook as vigorously as they have been. Lets be honest.

Censorship: Facebook is the largest censor on the internet.

Money in politics: Facebook is an enormous lobbyist and political advertiser.

Foreign influence: Foreign actors can gather lots of information through Facebook--most of the news about privacy issues on Facebook involve corporations, but it's naive to believe that it's only corporations doing this.

Media/government institutions: Facebook IS a media institution, and other media/government institutions use Facebook to gather information on people.

Globalism: Facebook is a globalist organization.

Could be that he's calling out the company he has in-depth knowledge about before those others specifically because he understands it the best.

Also, it's more impactful for someone to say "the thing I've created has become a monster" than "the thing that's in direct financial competition with the thing I created is a monster" because it doesn't feel like misdirection. It feels more honest.

It’s time to outlaw stalking-based business models. If you just break up Facebook but don’t outlaw the underlying scummy business model something else will just take its place.

Let's not forgot social media platforms did organize an Egyptian revolt. When there have been natural disasters or terrorist attacks, Facebook has sent notifications to people's friends telling them they are ok. Also, tons of small brands now can exist due to Facebook and Instagram, and these companies can now do so from any location in the country or world.

Facebook is a very metrics driven company, and privacy has been a remote concern for the company. I think they have dug their own grave if they even want to venture into finance or healthcare like Apple is doing. I would not trust Facebook with my health records or bank account. But, Instagram is great for finding vacation ideas and spotting new products or trends. Twitter IMO now often is a much better source of information than the NYTimes. Also, let's not forgot the NYTimes has its own axe to grind here.

Yes, and once in a while kidnappers might even let you have a beer or walk around the yard. But soon enough it’s back into the basement you go.

The point isn’t that Facebook is all bad, just that it’s mostly bad. And all of those things you mentioned can, and do, exist without Facebook. There was a world before Facebook, there will be a world after Facebook.

We should also not forget the genocide in Myanmar which has been enabled by and attributed to a lack of moderation and the prevalence of hateful fake news on facebook.

It's the advertising market that drives all of this.

As you rightly point out, history is proof that the ad dollars don't care what the platform or who the messenger is, as long as they are easy to use and effectiveness can be measured.

And it will keep driving all of this because aside from enthusiasts and privacy focused people, nobody is willing to pay for Internet services such as FB, WhatsApp or IG. Few people are willing to pay for news.

How many subscriptions am I supposed to have anyways if my go-to information consumption mode is to cross check several websites?

I don't want to be confined to NYT, Der Spiegel, Wired or WSJ. I want all of them whenever I please. The Internet made this possible and now we are on the road to taking this away again.

At the very root of all of this is the Internet's financial reliance on advertisements. Advertisement based business models need to die but at the same time we cannot lose the free, accessible Internet as it used to be.

and effectiveness can be measured

I don't think this is a prerequisite at all. Isn't most marketing focused on the persuasiveness of the seller, instead of the effectiveness of the product?

Regardless of what metric is used, ad platforms get more money by proving they're better at said metric, so measurement is required.

I don't think it's possible to outlaw what Facebook does without unforeseen consequences. Facebook is fast-food for the mind. You know it's bad for you, you know you shouldn't do it, you know there are healthier alternatives, the fact that corporations profit off of making people fat and sick is outrageous, but you can't very well outlaw the concept of beef in a bun.

People aren't mad because Facebook runs a social network or presents users with a newsfeed or provides a messaging service or stores users photos. Lots of companies do those things without complaint. People are mad at Facebook because the company constantly lies about privacy issues, makes one agreement with its users about their privacy and then does something else, and just generally treats the privacy of its users with complete contempt.

People aren't mad because MacDonalds runs a chain of restaurants or presents consumers with food or provides a easy way to get a meal. Lots of companies do those things without complaint. People are mad at McDonalds because the company constantly lies about health issues, makes one statement about the origins of their food when really it comes from somewhere else, and just generally treats the concerns of its consumers with complete contempt.

have never been more on board with breaking up McDonald's. ;)

> but you can't very well outlaw the concept of beef in a bun

Well you can. Lots of things have been successfully restricted in the past, in lots of places. It doesn't have to give rise to the mob, illegal smuggling or iniquitous burger dens that so often is the American experience of outlawing things.

Or you can just tax it until lettuce becomes appealing.

> I don't think it's possible to outlaw what Facebook does without unforeseen consequences.

You don't have to outlaw it, just tax revenue from the undesirable behaviors to dis-incentivize them. In Facebook's case (and also that of much of the web), most of what people object to is the practices that support personal profile-targeted ads. So tax those until page context-targeted ads become attractive.

"You don't have to outlaw it, just tax revenue from the undesirable behaviors to dis-incentivize them."

I think a 1 cent per impression ad tax would have a very positive impact on a lot of the internet. It doesn't destroy the advertising industry entirely, because there are still plenty of ads profitable at that point. A lot of the bullshit the advertising industry is subjecting us to isn't about those ads, where the signal is bright and clear and easy to monetize; it's about chasing the long tail and extracting every last ounce of data to make that stuff profitable, heedless of the societal damage it can cause.

Of course, you'd have everyone gaming what constitutes an "impression". Everyone might redesign into single-page apps to keep the same ad impression visible for a longer time, for one example.

And the personal tracking side would still exist, it would just happen before showing the impression, to identify you and calculate whether the 1 cent is worth it for you.

"And the personal tracking side would still exist, it would just happen before showing the impression, to identify you and calculate whether the 1 cent is worth it for you."

I've encountered this argument before on HN now, and the problem is, you're accounting for all this tracking as being free. It isn't. It's actually very expensive. The tracking has to work in a world where impressions are much more expensive, and consequently, the demand for ads has shrunk along with its total market.

The entire purpose of this tax is put the industry in a new set point where it can't afford all this tracking. It can only afford very high-return things, which we can't really stop anyhow. It can't afford to hoover up every email you've ever written and subject it to high-quality ML learning run by a team of 25 PhDs with hundreds of support staff behind them with effectively unlimited hardware budgets to squeeze an additional 3 lifetime cents from everybody in the world in a world where ads have a cost floor of 1 cent rather than their current .000001 cents (or however many zeros it may have, it's enough).

(Those numbers may seem weird to you, because we are not good at working at large scales of factors of magnitude. But 3 cents over the liftime of seven billion people on Earth is 210 million dollars. This is the fundamental reason why the ad industry is so dangerous; it is not only worth it, but trivially worth it, to spend 100 million dollars to build a system for invading your privacy if it will net them just a few more pennies. We need to strike at that value calculation, not fritter around the edges.)

People are waking up to the importance of privacy. If FB had competing social networks, consumer choice would matter. As it is, we have false choices like FB vs. IG.


Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat

Those are by far the dominant social networks in the US. They all compete in terms of fighting for limited user time. WhatsApp is kinda sorta in that group, however it's not particularly popular in the US. Tumblr used to be, it might as well be dead now, it's going the way of MySpace (sold off a few times, passed around, until it's hardly valuable at all).

Snapchat competes primarily with Facebook and Instagram. At the edges there's some competition with sites like YouTube, Reddit, Imgur (and other image sharing networks).

Instagram competes with core Facebook, which is of course why they ate them. Also with Snapchat. To a lesser extent YouTube, Pinterest and misc image sites.

YouTube competes with Facebook and their goal to build a much larger user video platform. To a lesser extent they compete with Snapchat and Instagram, particularly on very short form user video.

Reddit competes with Twitter and some of the smaller niche social networks like Imgur. There's some limited competition between Reddit, Instagram and Pinterest.

LinkedIn competes with Facebook. Microsoft scored a nice protected fiefdom in LinkedIn. It suffers no serious competitive threat other than incompetence.

When you examine the competitive landscape, it's very clear that Facebook has no direct competitor to their core platform. And further, Instagram has far overwhelmed its competition. Facebook core is Facebook's Google search, Instagram is Facebook's YouTube, all are monopolies at what they do. The scope of Facebook core + Instagram + WhatsApp is breathtaking, it must be something like 2.6 to 3 billion monthly actives now when you include everyone across all three major platforms.

The most interesting social network among the group, is Pinterest. If they don't screw things up, they'll have a far better business than Twitter over time. It's a dramatically more mainstream product with direct, obvious, superior monetization potential. None of the other social networks can compete well with what they do (not without contorting themselves into a pretzel and risking their existing userbase and business).

>Tumblr used to be, it might as well be dead now, it's going the way of MySpace (sold off a few times, passed around, until it's hardly valuable at all).

That will turn around quick if Pornhub actually succeeds in buying it.

I have never heard anyone say that Pinterest is the most interesting ANYTHING before.

What do you consider to be their obvious superior monetization potential? And is their anything else about Pinterest that makes you find it so interesting?

Doesn't solve the same problem.

I recently launched Cardbox, an app that reimagines your address book as your definitive social network. No timeline, no posts, no ads, no data monetization; just contacts.

As an independent place to stay connected, it enables people to leave social media without losing their social network (an important distinction). It also makes it easier to discover and try out new apps (just link them to your card).

Check it out maybe :) https://cardbox.app/

> It’s time to outlaw stalking-based business models.

Data generated by users implicitly or explicitly should be protected in the same way other highly personal data is protected. I'm talking specifically about health data and video rental records and (in some states) library records.

It is in the EU. The US just needs to adopt something similar enough to GDPR to have teeth.

Most ppl in the world don't have credit cards to pay for a service online.

Advertising doesn't require surveillance.

Why are they doing it then, if its not required.

Because they are trying to make as much money as possible. It only has to be 1% more effective and it's a no-brainer to turn it on.

Because targeting is very profitable.

Sure, but you don't have to watch the user to do that. Target indirectly via the content of the page. If I search for "Harley Davidson", it makes a lot of sense to show motorcycle ads. If I'm reading an article about curing cancer with apricot kernels, then show me ads for oncology centers or maybe for woo enhancer.

But it's more profitable to store multiple user interests & behaviors in a database to be exploited in any number of ways, including selling. The aggregation even lets you infer other valuable information about the user, such as the scandal with Target inferring pregnancies several years ago.

Sure, it's generating an incredible amount of profit for a few companies in California.

so effective advertising does require surveillance? Is there way to to know if companies like FB would be sustainable without surveillance or would they simply die out ?

in other words, would banning surveillance business kill FB, Google ect? Would we still want that law if that was the case?

newspapers, have done just fine without it for several hundred years. Radio and TV likewise can't do it.

Duck Duck Go doesn't use it and they do okay. There is a lot more money in surveillance based advertising, but it isn't the only way.

> Duck Duck Go doesn't use it and they do okay.

Right. My point was FB/Google would cease to exist in their current form employing hundreds of thousands of ppl and responsible for US tech domination.

Would we as a society ok with losing all that and turning FB into a 100 ppl company that no one cares about.

It hasn't been technologically possible until recently, and now that it is, businesses are strongly incentivized to use it, in order to keep up with the growth of competitors that do used tracked advertising.

Privacy-focused mass-market products like DDG and Firefox will very rarely be able to keep up with the giants that prioritize profit. As long as users disregard their privacy, there'll be businesses ready to entice them with customized features, and of course advertisers will reward that too. That's why regulation is the only real way out (GDPR, etc.).

This isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. Tracking-based advertising isn't used out of necessity any more often than negotiating a $200k TC increase is. It's about maximizing profit, not simply about sustained survival.

I think "surveillance capitalism" has a better ring to it. Maybe "corporate surveillance" if we want to be less ideological.

I think "surveillance capitalism" better reflects the underlying incentives, and is less likely to be confused with some other nefarious phenomena, such as surveillance of employees, or surveillance of other corporations by their competitors.

FB is the sacrificial lamb, popular scapegoat and effective distraction in this new era of SV policies shaping public opinion, ideas and as a result global politics. It seems misplaced, the amount of vitriol and negative press directed at facebook when from my perspective Google/Twitter/Amazon and even Reddit are far, far worse in terms of aggressively monopolistic behavior and negative effects on society and democracy. The fallout and effects of these platforms unparalleled power and influence is not well-researched yet. The key part that strikes me as disingenuous if these outlets and politicians who fling so much mud towards FB cared so much about privacy violations where were the billion dollar fines and string of hit pieces on Equifax (Who also collect and store your info without your consent)? The answer is there weren't any because they don't, and this is just a distraction from the real shit.

The real threat it poses isn't to democracy but to established political players who don't want to lose any influence they have over the electorate. they use the election manipulation bogeyman to scare people into believing all their troubles would be taken care if we just trust the political class.

The real threat is that politicians will step in and decide who can have a platform, how big it can be, and worse, who can use it.

Are these large conglomerates an issue, perhaps in areas of needing regulation to insure we have privacy and no not need to opt in. however they should be able to trade for rights as well and in no case should we ever allow politicians to determine what the platform is or who can use it.

I agree with other companies being worse influences than FB. Though I'd guess that FB is the target for these articles just because of brand recognition in the publisher's target demographics.

Aside from Equifax, I disagree. I think FB is getting what they deserve.

FB definitely deserves negative press, there are just a lot of other companies who should be getting blasted harder. IMO at least.

> this is just a distraction from the real shit

Facebook is not all of the problem but it's definitely part of it. Facebook has clear privacy issues an implications and everyone uses it and knows about it. If highlighting its issues is a viable path to better privacy legislation and is the example that allows the bigger problems to be demonstrated to everyone, even non technical people, why not use it?

My mom wakes up on Facebook and goes to sleep on Facebook. She's spending hours a day there and it dominates her entire worldview of current events and politics. That level of engagement blows away Google/Twitter/Amazon/etc. FB is responsible for elections of right-wing dictators around the world, the rise of white nationalism, the jailing and killing of dissidents, climate change denial. In no way does any other company achieve that level of poisonous influence.

If you believe it, say it from your real account.

This ubiquitous practice of commenting on contentious topics using throwaways reveals much of that's wrong with HN culture.

The grandparent comment was insightful to me.

At the same time, there is a large (20%-80%), vocal, and powerful fraction of tech employees that strongly and idealistically oppose that "SV policies [are] shaping public opinion", or that it's a potentially bad thing and not something we should strive for.

I see why someone would hesitate making that comment from their primary account.

This comment is pretty ironic in the context of a discussion on internet privacy.

One one hand side, I agree that Facebook/Amazon/Apple etc. but also many telcoms are way too big which in turn stifles fair competition and leads to monopolies (and subsequently abuse of power, lobbying etc). On the other, there has not been one good solution proposed to this so far.

Let's run through the options (accumulated over months or years of discussions): 1) Split FB into the FB-Instagram-WhatsApp trio that we used to have in the past. Neat but the main culprit remains the same. 2) Remove Zuck or at least reduce his voting power s.t. the board has more. This would work if we assume that Zuck is the main issue with FB, which I doubt he is. Investors would always push for more money and if it means more of the same privacy-violating, advertising-driven social media, I doubt they would change it - money hardly ever has a moral compass of any kind. 3) Kind of like 2 but on top of this, you fix some members of the board with community/government selected representatives which would be supposed to balance out things and/or at least raise concerns. 4) Introduce point 3 as a general rule - if a company reaches X% of the given industry's estimated total market value, it has to give up some board seats. In theory, forces companies to stay focused instead of spreading into every single adjacent industry.

Now, all of these have problems of their own (corruption in case of 3-4, anyone?) but the sooner the discussion starts the better. Google/Amazon/Microsoft/Apple/chip makers are next in line but also, as another commenter pointed out - we do want to see people build strong and prosperous companies that truly innovate.

Damn, it's a non-trivial topic, just writing this down brings more questions than answers

Agreed that the solutions proposed thus far do nothing to address the problems. Even if we tore the company apart brick by brick there are no guarantees that we wouldn't have the exact same problems resurface in 5 years under a different company. Prehaps we should focus about ways to increase the transparency and accountability of any Media/Telecom platform.

I agree to breaking up Facebook. But the message falls flat when the suggestion is to spin off WhatsApp and Instagram into separate companies. This doesn't really do anything.

When standard oil or Bell telephone broke up, they were broken across geographic lines or "horizontally" in situations where the business was vertically integrated (separating extraction, refining or transport in the case of standard oil)

FB, IG and WhatsApp are all separate companies with arguably very different business models, so separating them up has little impact.

I disagree. Many people have moved away from FB to IG after all the bad publicity FB has had. If IG was an independent company that consumer choice would mean something. As it is, any privacy conscious social network that mounts any threat to FB will simply be bought as happened with WhatsApp.

Can you cite source for the claim that people have switched?

Cause all I see is people using both...and the publicly available data supports that

IG was like a 13 person company, do you think they would have successfully scaled without FB? Thats a pretty pretty big if. Had they not sold, its possible FB would have just murdered them.

Before being acquired by Facebook they already had over 30 million users

I agree with your premise that breaking up FB, WA and IG doesn't really do anything (I made a much longer comment about this in a reply above). But what would breaking up facebook even mean then?

Fundamentally there's no equivalent to the geographic breakup, as physical natural monopolies emerge because you can only have one company per unit of natural resource. Facebook is a monopoly because of network effects, and by definition only a company as large as facebook can compete with facebook, and a facebook with only a subset of your friends becomes nearly useless.

If facebook has bad behaviour, I think regulation is the only actual solution that actually addresses that behaviour, and makes any sense given the market dynamics.

Its absolutely possible to break facebook up horizontally. And if the government were to explore a breakup, its the way they should go.

Company 1 would be a Social Networking and Hosting PaaS from hardware, networking, bandwidth, databases, serverless workers to services like ads, anti-evil, localization, social graph, development tools, frameworks, runtimes. Company 1, would be THE place to build a social network, if you were an upstart. Company 1 could instantly be a tier 1 competitor to AWS and Azure. Imagine being able to tap into Facebooks Identity services, but running your own Directory Tenant, instead of tied to the FBID. Company 1 would compete with Firebase and restart Pulse, it would jump headfirst against Microsoft and its Visual Studio/GitHub offerings.

Company 2 become clients, consumers, of Company 1 services. They include Messenger, WhatsApp, FB, IG, and Occulus.

The other beauty of a horizontal breakup is that Company 1 lowers the barrier to entry for new upcoming social networks, without being a risk to them being eaten by Company 2. Mark then also can profit off selling his competitors service, similar to AWS profiting off Netflix.

I think the idea of your "company 1" is actually super interesting, essentially social Graph as a Service(GAAS?). But , I don't think that addresses any of the issues people actually have with facebook. What does facebook running both the front and backend of their site have to do with their market power?

That company 1 would still retain 90% of Facebooks value, as it would be the social graph where people acknowledge their real life connections. It would still have all the privacy liabilities, in fact Facebook's largest scandal (Cambridge Analytics) was due to the face they were too open with the social graph! And that it was misused! If we're selling the social graph now can't there be a million politically oriented "research operations" that spring up and use it?

Also, FB, IG and WA all have separate social graphs, them being frontend skins on one service doesn't reflect that. So they'd likely be completely separate companies full stop, maybe using a couple services from GAAS like spam algos. Sure new, potentially better frontends for FB could pop up with more specialized niches, but facebook is already exploring that with messenger and events getting their own apps and sites.

They use their market power against Company 2 competitors. Its waaay too hard to get a Company 2 type company off the ground, because you have to build/buy/lease the equivelant Company 1 services (from AWS etc) and assemble them in a logical way, all while getting a product off the ground before Company 2 can clone you. Giving people a huge head start, by eliminating the need to recreate Company 1, means the Public will see more competing social networks, and those social networks will have less incentive to sell to FB, because they can benefit from Company 1 engineering and anti-evil services without being gobbled up by the mothership.

Social Graph SERVICES are Company 1, the FB Social Graph would be Company 2.

I actually think Company 2 would retain most of the value, Company 1 would only gain value after non-Company 2 clients start buying their services. Company 1 has high fixed costs, and makes money at scale. Company 2 is where all the data about people is stored in a usable, actionable way. Company 1 can only see it in an abstract or encrypted set, they cant actually see what Company 2 or Company 2 competitors are holding. Company 1 builds the Ad infrastructure itself, allowing Company 2 competitors to spin up their own ad marketplaces, (like shopify for ads), but Company 2 is the one profiting off matching Ad customers to datasets and displaying the ads, and keeping peoples eyeball attention on them. It's like Azure, Microsoft isnt looking inside what people are doing at their data for product ideas or extracting the customer held data for its own advertising purposes (Amazon might be, but they shouldnt be.) Company 1 would be a completely agnostic company, it wouldnt know ANYTHING about the data it holds. Just database/graph/toolkit leasing service.

>FB, IG and WA all have separate social graphs

That wouldnt be the case, because Company 2 can compare, merge social graphs at will. What they cant do is look at competing social graphs hosted by Company 1. Company 2 could buy competitors to acquire their social graph or client app or userbase.

Essentially then, you're advocating for FB's core infra to become a competitor to AWS/Azure/GCP?

I guess I just don't see why this is necessary at all. Company 2 is essentially exactly the same as FB would be now if it switched its infra to AWS, with pretty much the same pros and cons as a company. Facebook would have a stressful couple years of transition, and then we'd all be right back at square one.

AFAIK nobody is offering PaaS for social networks. Youre missing the part where "ads, anti-evil, localization, social graph, development tools, frameworks, runtimes" are part of Company 1. If I want to spin up my own ad network, or social graph, identity service, spam blocking service, I can go to Company 1 and lease their technology, and plug it into my product. They wont have access to the data in the social graph, or in the ad network, but they provide the software infrastructure that makes it possible. They are the flux capacitor of Company 2 style social networks.

The barriers to entry into the social network realm (at scale) can be high (security, spam, compliance, censorship, localization.)

The government splitting them horizontally, means that by virtue of Company 1 existing, competing with Company 2 is infinitely easier, and a great way for consumers to benefit from a more diverse marketplace. Possibly the next best way besides the government funding a public/private hybrid version of Company 1, or the government enforcing some kind of interoperability standards.

Breaking up facebook this way leaves the consumer client side fb roughly how it is (and still at risk for privacy fines, and fcc action) but levels the playing field for the next generation of companies. Thats the kind of goal antitrust action should be looking to accomplish. Not to punish facebook, but to make a fair competitive marketplace for social media and messaging clients. Facebooks privacy and other scandals should be handled by other government bodies, they arent antitrust imho. FCC, AG, DoJ (for other reasons like criminal negligence.)

I note that all the mini-Bell's have now merged and reformulated into just 3 companies, and $10 says AT&T or Verizon will gooble up CenturyLink before long: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakup_of_the_Bell_System.

I like Elizabeth Warren's idea (in the case of Google) to break up the sales side from the platform side, and let them compete like everyone else for advertising impressions in the exchange. I admit I may not understand the nuance here, but the idea is readily grasped, which is, perhaps, the most-important thing in getting political leverage behind it.

Not just merged into 3, but also eaten all the other independent competition that old ATT would have had. GTE was huge and not a Bell (largest independent ATT competitor). Their cellular network was originally half Vodafone. They bought MCI/Worldcom (largest long distance provider after ATT at one point.)

Look at CenturyLink/Qwest/Layer3/Embarq(Sprint)

I 100% agree with you that the idea of spin-offs is flat, tone deaf, and all about PR for the proposers, and not anything actually beneficial to the public.

Wrote more about what I think is better replying to a child comment of yours. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19868464

> I agree to breaking up Facebook. But the message falls flat when the suggestion is to spin off WhatsApp and Instagram into separate companies. This doesn't really do anything.

It does, because Facebook protects its monopoly by making sure it owns its competition. Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat are its competition, and the first to are far larger than the last.

Bell telephone was broken up geographically for technical and infrastructural reasons (too expensive to build duplicative) telephone exchanges, I'd imagine), and I'd argue it was a poor example since it left regional monopolies.

How are the business models different?

FB, IG and WhatsApp are isolated silos (for now). FB tries to work for everyone whereas IG and WhatsApp target younger demographics, since Facebook is no longer cool to be on.

WhatsApp certainly does not target younger demographics. Its goal is to be a messenger app for everybody.

Isn't that what Facebook Messenger is doing though? I could be mistaken, I'm just commenting on how it seems from my perspective.

To some extent, yes. Facebook Messenger is very effective for communicating with people - so long as they're on Facebook. So it's a good way of keeping people in the system. I probably would have deactivated my account were it not for Messenger.

But WhatsApp is capable of including everyone regardless of whether they're on Facebook. As the pool of "I'm too cool for Facebook" people grows, more communities will move away from Messenger and WhatsApp is a good secondary as far as FB is concerned.

But that doesn't address the business model.

Chris Hughes noticeably pulled a few punches regarding his old friend Zuck’s character:

1. “I don’t blame Mark for his quest for domination. He has demonstrated nothing more nefarious than the virtuous hustle of a talented entrepreneur.”

2. “I don’t think these proposals [Zuck finally asking for regulation] were made in bad faith.”

It’s pretty naïve at this point to say that Zuckerberg has done nothing more than a “virtuous hustle”.

And Zuck asking for weak regulation is such an obvious ploy to stave off stronger action like a breakup that would threaten dominance.

Having made those nitpicks, this is a fairly bombshell article for someone so early at FB to come out swinging.

You can expect more power players to take up this cause in the next quarter or two as early execs start waking up from what basically amounts to Facebook brainwashing.

>And Zuck asking for weak regulation is such an obvious ploy to stave off stronger action like a breakup that would threaten dominance.

Regulation can often help incumbent businesses by raising the barrier to entry for competition, which allows higher monopoly rents.

Fair point.

Also I just LOLed after reading the NYT editorial board reaction to this piece - apparently we disagree on whether any punches were pulled. The first line:

“Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, pulls no punches in his essay for The Times Privacy Project...”


This is all posturing. Different people are putting different proposals to create the spectrum of possibilities. No one is talking about 100B fine because FB already pegged the fine at ~5B

The whole business model of Silicon Valley is finding companies that can grow to become abusive monopolies, and then growing them into that. Cut off one head and two will take its place.

In fact, Facebook’s first investor wrote the book on this idea.

What's the name of the book?

Zero to One

> The whole business model of Silicon Valley

The thing you point to is the model for which Capitalism selects, not some local quirk of Silicon Valley.

A lot of the infrastructure of capitalism is oriented around generating and sustaining small- and medium-sized businesses, and while large corporations will always want to increase market power most sectors have antitrust reasons to avoid outright monopoly. The tech sector feels free to aim for monopoly and generate monopoly rents.

> A lot of the infrastructure of capitalism is oriented around generating and sustaining small- and medium-sized businesses

A lot of the infrastructure of modern mixed economies is dedicated to maintaining some space for such businesses against the natural forces of capitalism, as part of the broader purpose of modern mixed economies of providing sufficient mitigation of the clear adverse effects of capitalism to relieve pressure for more radical reform, sure.

That is not inconsistent with the fact that the basic nature of the capitalist property system is to promote the creation of productive monopolies from which monopoly rents can be extracted. Actually, that fact is why that effort is necessary.

>But there is no constitutional right to harass others or live-stream violence.

Pretty sure the Supreme Court would disagree with you on that one, bud. They aren't fond of adding new categories of unprotected speech. See Trope #3 in this article: https://www.popehat.com/2015/05/19/how-to-spot-and-critique-...

The trope "But there is no constitutional right to [blah]" is blatantly ignoring the 9th amendment. [1]

[1]: https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution-conan/amendment-9

Maybe we should have a sticky article at the top of HN for NYTimes' weekly Facebook bashing opinion piece?

If we do that for every company/person bashing topic, we'll quickly run out of room on the front page.

I have trouble understanding why we should break up Facebook but not google. Is it because we think google is less evil than Facebook?

> I have trouble understanding why we should break up Facebook but not google. Is it because we think google is less evil than Facebook?

The article does not argue against breaking up Google, in fact it says:

> Finally, an aggressive case against Facebook would persuade other behemoths like Google and Amazon to think twice about stifling competition in their own sectors, out of fear that they could be next.

It's basically saying Google's next if it doesn't mend its ways.

> It's basically saying Google's next

I don't think that answers GP's question though,

why is facebook first?

Why is facebook the chosen one. Surely it wasn't chosen using random number generator.

> why is facebook first?

Because the article's written by a Facebook co-founder and the framing here is therefore through that lens? I think any of the others could have (and have been previously) chosen as the one to focus on.

On a more philosophical point, Facebook is very "personal". The core money-making business acts of Google and Amazon are focused around intent to do something, whereas Facebook's entire raison d'etre is to monopolise the whole gamut of your daily interaction.

That's not to say the others aren't either, but it's so explicit to who Facebook is, they're an easier one to focus on first.

> why is facebook first?

> Why is facebook the chosen one. Surely it wasn't chosen using random number generator.

It's it obvious? It's been far more transparently shameless.

> I don't think that answers GP's question though,

It does. The op was asking a why/why not question. He didn't even mention the concept of sequence.

I was musing philosophically. I know why Facebook is first and google isn’t on the chopping block. It’s because people don’t have the same relationship with google. No one is accusing google of colluding with foreign powers to sabotage democracy. It’s funny, right? If google had the best ad targeting during 2016, they would be on the crucifix right now just like Facebook, but they didn’t (maybe you can argue google ads aren’t as useful or as visceral as fb ads, but I think it’s complicated). You might argue that google wouldn’t work with the Russians, but that’s not obvious to me that Facebook did that intentionally either.

There but for fortune.

Both should be broken up. They are both equally dangerous. It's just that Facebook's standards have been degrading faster and so it's been more noticeable.

Whatsapp and Instagram as independent companies could compete head to head with Facebook in similar domains, so breaking it up would increase competition.

It's not as clear that stripping away YouTube or Android etc from Google would have the same sort of effect. It's hard to see how Bing or DuckDuckGo would benefit against Google Search, although it might allow some other businesses to more effectively compete against YouTube or Android.

It's not any less evil and needs to be broken up just as quickly, but focusing on one giant and not trying to simultaneously fight both is probably a better idea. At the very least this sets precedent for splitting up the other.

In a way, it is less evil.

It has not been caught selling user data the same way FB has. It does not have the same reach / social control, since it's never managed to create a social network with enough traction.

Still, some control is needed, but I think we should all agree that Facebook should be top priority?

I think I agree with you, but I also feel like a few missteps out of alignment with that narrative and google would be up for anti-trust conversation just like Facebook. I’m mostly musing about how your relationship with regulators has a lot to do with how you treat them and the public. When people perceive you as good, you can get away with monetizing people’s data. When people perceive you as bad, you’re the monster selling data to the Russians.

It’s a matter of perspective (and sometimes reality). Let’s not pretend that the Russians couldn’t have bought google ads, it’s simply that Facebook’s audience targeting is way, way better than google’s because their surveillance economy is richer.

It’s complicated. Is Facebook simply too good at targeting?

This is part of why I’m working on mobilecoin. Can you imagine Facebook ad targeting if they also have all of your payment information?

Facebook won't have much of an impact on the 2020 election imo.

Users are already Leaving.

I don't see why we can't let FAANG grow big and fail like every other company.

You are crazy if you think Facebook won't have much of an impact on the 2020 election... It's the ad targeting platform of choice for people who want to target specific demographics. Why wouldn't Facebook have a deep impact on the 2020 election?

Do you really think a company of Facebook's scale will be able to detect and somehow neutralize all of the political ads that are introduced into their targeting systems even if they wanted to, which they don't because it's antithetical to their revenue narrative.

As mentioned, their users are leaving

Google hasn’t committed the same evils Facebook has. They’ve been smarter about handling personal data in the west, and their platforms haven’t been used to attack democracy.

In Asia their platforms haven’t been used to help countries commit genocide.

I mean, you could make the case for breaking up google for monopoly reasons, but google has mostly just done business the way amazon or Microsoft has. And unlike Facebook, google has been branching out of the advertising business for a while with their cloud services, hardware and paid software.

If I want a privacy secure add-free gmail, I can actually get that by throwing money after google.

Is that really true about Asia considering that google was secretly working on a conformist search engine for Asia? Again, I think this is complicated.

I think google is guilty of a lot of things in Asia, but it’s not like windows in China is like windows in Denmark either.

I haven’t heard about google products being used to organise genocides though, but Facebook has.

Funny, what do you have to break up something that you are not even forced to use, and that is not even remotely necessary for benefiting from the internet? I must be missing something.

Well, increasingly, you are forced to use Facebook.

I went through the arduous process of deleting my Facebook account about 8 years ago. 2 years ago, I started doing freelance software development, and at some point almost every one of my clients has wanted me to implement a Facebook login. I could say no, but then I'm likely losing my livelihood. And in order to implement Facebook logins, you need a Facebook account (to administrate and view documentation).

My girlfriend cleans up estates, meaning that when someone dies, she helps the family of the deceased clean up the deceased's house. A lot of that involves selling their stuff, for which she splits the profits with the heirs. It used to be that Craigslist was the best place to sell stuff, but increasingly it's much harder to sell stuff on Craigslist, and easier to sell on Facebook marketplace. And again, to buy/sell there, you really need a Facebook account. She also does other odd jobs, and again, most of these are found through Facebook.

Maybe Facebook isn't necessary for the ways you benefit from the internet, but your experience isn't everyone's.

To you - my advice would be to outsource implementation of FB logins. For your girlfriend, and in general, for people looking for odd jobs, it is understandably impossible to avoid the platform.

I have considered outsourcing logins (and similarly ethically distasteful work) and even contacted some third parties to do it. However, I ran into two issues which caused me to abandon the idea:

1. When I considered the necessity of onboarding a third party, it's very difficult to prevent the cost from becoming prohibitive.

2. My client hired me because he wanted ME to do the work. I have over a decade of industry experience, lots of high-quality training, speak English fluently and am good at communication. Those skills and experience result in me producing quality work. The only way I was able to subcontract to someone in such a way that the cost approached not being prohibitive was to hire developers from the third world. That puts me in the position of a) trying to sell my client on lower-quality developers at basically the same cost, or b) doing this in secret, which I refuse to do, because it's unprofessional and worse than implementing Facebook in my personal ethics.

How is marketplace better than craigslist?

More people using it, more of those people willing to buy.

All of facebook's utility comes from its exceptionally strong network.


> You are not forced to be software developer.

Do you really not see the problem with suggesting people switch careers every time an overbearing corporation starts exerting excessive control over their industry?

Except that’s not what’s happened in the anecdote above, at all.

Facebook provides services that people want to use, like Login, or that provides real value better than the competitors (Marketplace).

Complaining that you “have” to use Marketplace because things sell faster on it is totally bizarre.

> Facebook provides services that people want to use, like Login, or that provides real value better than the competitors (Marketplace).

That's almost always true of monopolistic practices, so I don't see your point.

> Complaining that you “have” to use Marketplace because things sell faster on it is totally bizarre.

If things can't be sold quickly, they often can't be sold at all. There's no place to store this stuff if it can't be sold fairly quickly, as the properties are usually being sold.

Maybe you're rich enough to turn down money, but a lot of people "have to" work for money.

I just don't understand how Facebook helping you sell stuff faster is a bad thing for you, or for Facebook.

What excessive control or monopolistic practice did Facebook exert in order to help you sell your stuff faster?

Being better at something because you have a lot of users and a halfway decent UI isn't anti-competitive.

Contrast this, for example, with Intel paying competitors not to also sell AMD chips, or Google listing their own inferior products higher in organic Search results.

> I just don't understand how Facebook helping you sell stuff faster is a bad thing for you, or for Facebook.

They aren't helping sell things faster. They're forcing me to use their platform if I want to sell things slightly slower to how I used to sell things on Craigslist. It's faster to sell on Facebook now, but it's not as fast as it used to be on Craigslist.

> Being better at something because you have a lot of users and a halfway decent UI isn't anti-competitive.

They aren't better. If anything, their tooling is inferior to Craigslist's--it's harder to find the things you want on Facebook, and Facebook's seller tools are rudimentary. Facebook has a larger user base because buyers have moved over to Facebook, but the idea that this is an improved experience for anyone is flat wrong. The migration is because Facebook is using their other services to direct people into their marketplace, not because they provide a better marketplace.


We've banned this account. If you'd like to post according to guidelines you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com.


Even if people do leave, the data that Facebook possesses on both former users & never-users combined with their demonstrably dangerous & dishonest practices justifies some sort of regulatory intervention.

Exactly because whether or not you use it, Facebook is shaping your use of the internet.

“If we don’t have public servants shaping these policies, corporations will.”

I fear that in the current environment where money largely drives politics that corporations will just shift from directly making policy to funding the politicians who will do-so on their behalf.

This step of removal at least theoretically hands power back to the people, though, as people can vote out corrupt politicians, but can't vote out Zuck.

Well... this is how they currently make policy. There aren’t literally corporations writing law.

Sure there are. That's what all of the associations e.g. NRA do. They write new laws, law makers possibly make a few edits, and then propose those laws to their legislature.

It's a vicious cycle inherent in capitalism. Companies with a substantial amount of capital have the power to exercise decision-making about where to invest, what to invest in, how many jobs and what kinds of jobs to create or reduce. In order to avoid any economic meltdowns, politicians are doing their best to sustain the system and stimulate growth simply by balancing the interests of wealthy people, disregarding the interests of the wider population.

Chris Hughes is right on a lot of things.

But to create a new Federal Agency that can write blank-check laws is not a good idea.

What ever happened to the Schoolhouse rock song "I'm just a bill?" What happened to laws being written through approval of house and congress?

We are pushing for laws to be written by people who do not have the citizen in mind (FCC killed Net Neutrality ring a bell?). Why is it so crazy to expect the House and Congress to do their diligence and vet all laws? Why must we create federal entities to do the heavy lifting for us at the cost of removing representation?

I found this piece very unconvincing. Where is the articulate and data supported argument that our democracy is under threat? Are people no longer voting? No, they are voting in droves. People of all ages are more politically charged than ever before. I’m seeing 10 year olds engaging in our democracy.

To me it is becoming increasingly apparent that the issue here is that people aren’t voting for the issues the NYT and Chris want people to vote on. That doesn’t qualify as a threat to democracy. They don’t understand these voters or their values and the assumption at NYT is that they are morons who are clicking on fake news links on Facebook. An entire case is being made without data to support it.

I get that Trump got elected and nobody at the NYT is happy about it. Time to move on imo.

>To me it is becoming increasingly apparent that the issue here is that people aren’t voting for the issues the NYT and Chris want people to vote on.

While you're getting downvoted, there is likely an element of truth to this. The "old" media has seen entities like Twitter and Facebook as a threat to their business model, as well as their ability to be influencers. There are legitimate gripes that we should all have with Facebook and their ilk, but I am sure the NYT is motivated by more than just concern for the public good.

I’ve spent 12 years on HN and have read countless threads from users I’ve followed for many years.

This up/down voting mechanism is just another system of censorship and it has gotten worse on HN and you see the restraint exercised in comments. Anyone can spot articles that are “safe” to comment on and articles that are not (from the perspective of sharing views that do not jive with the HN majority and being downvoted into oblivion). I made a conscience decision not to let that bother or deter me. I try to balance that with my attempt to not troll and try to be constructive if a choose to post.

The bias that NYT has here to destroy Facebook is evident to anyone who takes a moment to think about it. Their entire business model has been upended because they no longer control distribution, FB does. How can we form thoughtful / well balanced opinions based on these one-sided pieces? We can’t. Alas, who cares.

I couldn't have stated it better myself. It's especially ridiculous considering everyone claims they hate censorship so much and yet I see people abusing flags nowadays to auto-hide perfectly constructive comments just because they don't like what the other person said.

FWIW I agree with your comment. It is sad that it is getting downvoted. But this kind of thread is more of a crowd lynching rather than a place for discussions.

While you're at it, do the same for GOOG, AMZN and MSFT to avoid unbalancing the market and strengthening other tech behemoths. They could easily step in FB role.

"Mark Zuckerberg is a good guy. But his company is a threat to our economy and democracy."

"Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks."

I always find it difficult to take an argument seriously when someone is defined simply as "good". It glosses over a lot of things, like what motivates a person and how we define "good". For example, if we can agree that Facebook's privacy issues are bad, and that Mark was directly responsible for them, then it seems that either

a) Mark selfishly disregards privacy for the growth of the company. (bad)

b) Mark does care about privacy, but if he doesn't grow the company, he'll be forced out and someone less good will take the helm. (good)

c) Mark thinks that all the good Facebook does outweighs the negatives, and therefore the sacrifice of privacy is a net positive. (good)

For reference, that first quote is taken from the NYT front page summary, and the second from the body of the editorial.

I'd be ok with calling Zuckerberg a good person if anything he has ever done has indicated he's honest or open to serious change. But he's not. The pattern is pretty clear.

Ever since the Beacon fiasco he's been saying that privacy is important and that he's going to take it seriously and make changes, while every action he and those around him take moves blatantly in the opposite direction.

He's been lying every time. Year after year, over and over again, just lying straight to our face. It's not innocent, it's not naive, he's not dumb.


Great that you brought up beacon.

Beacon was the way to keep privacy in check yet still make money. But when all went against it, they pulled out and then led a silent fooler's march towards tricking people into giving data and making that data available to payers. All made legal with a very broad TOS that they can do whatever they want with the data that they choose.

We should have just stuck with Beacon and marketplaces in a privacy rich world.

"... if anything [Zuckerberg] has ever done has indicated he's honest ..."

By way of comparison:

Look at Bill Gates' actions independent of Microsoft. If his foundation cures malaria, and so forth, all other sins are forgiven. I'm pretty conflicted about Gates. But I accept that people are complicated. eg Ruthless on the battlefield of business, humanitarian in retirement.

I'm still chewing on Zuckerberg San Fran General Hospital's surprise billing. I know it was just a donation, not active control. But it now has his name. So I can't understand how someone with more money than god isn't giving away healthcare. If only for the PR. How is someone so insightful into human behavior simultaneously so oblivious?


Given that he donated millions of dollars to fund public healthcare, often delivered for free by a public entity, what should he have done instead that would qualify as giving away healthcare? Bearing in mind that he is not pesonally a medical professional.

I have no idea. I'm just saying how it looks from the peanut gallery.

If I were Scott Galloway advising Zuckerberg, I'd probably say better PR, damage control, more puff pieces (below). Once "Zuckerberg General" hit the press, I'd swoop in, apologize to everyone for the oversight & misunderstanding, forgive the debts, set up financial aide for students & other hardships, host a press conference to announce a new study for improving access & simplifying health care. Blah, blah, blah.


I guess I'm saying I don't really care that Zuckerberg is a bad actor. (No different than any other titan.) I'm just surprised that he's tone deaf and seemingly unable to adapt.


This privacy debacle is a long time coming. Per the structure of scandals, there's no new information or revelations. Zuckerberg just ran out of goodwill.

I suspect a good PR advisor would tell him to keep quiet with SF shitting the bed. There's nothing for him to gain by publicly involving himself in the matter and shockingly little he can do except maybe try to point out that it's not actually his hospital in any way. Any misunderstandings, oversights, or debts are in no way his to have any involvement with.

"X is a good person, but ..." is simply something that a lot of people have been taught to do when they want to criticize someone but don't want to appear to be entirely negative (without necessarily having anything nice to say about the person). It's a common strategy to try to come off as more polite, especially when your statement is written or will be quoted.

A common aphorism that approximates this is "you catch more flies with sugar."

Right, it's less a serious moral evaluation and more a rhetorical device to appease his supporters long enough to continue reading his argument.

I prefer the Southern convention of appending "... bless his heart." "Mark is just a sociopath hell-bent on world domination, bless his heart."

This. Soften up (and appeal to) your target.

Prefacing a criticism with "XXX is an upstanding person, but..." is just shorthand for saying "I am aware of and actively trying to avoid ad-hominem arguments, and genuinely believe my concerns are with the institution/setup/company/regulation and not with individuals."

I think it's a legit rhetorical device.

Life is a lot more grey than “good” and “bad” people. This isn’t a Marvel movie. Sometimes a persons actions are a positive, sometimes a negative, and perhaps the outcome doesn’t match the intention. So I’ll withhold judgment on a persons character of whom I’ve never met. I won’t ever fully trust a corporation though, and I use Facebook minimally. That said, this breakup Facebook monopoly shit has to stop. It’s not a monopoly as far as ads or marketing go. And that’s what they sell.

> It glosses over a lot of things, like what motivates a person and how we define "good".

My interpretation is that the goal is to try to avoid the queston of Zuckerberg's moral character. Do some people think he's evil? Yes. Is that relevant as a matter of public policy? Perhaps not. It's a matter for personal judgments and personal opinion.

The question at hand is Facebook, not Zuckerberg's soul. For most readers, this helps them focus appropriately.

“good guy” here is social code for “guy i don’t really want to piss off” and is akin to grinning in other primates. the phrase is disingenuous in most cases.

this american life did a whole show on “good guys”[0] (including exploiting the “good guy discount”).

[0] https://www.thisamericanlife.org/515/good-guys

Research Confirms: When Receiving Bad News, We Shoot the Messenger


> b) Mark does care about privacy, but if he doesn't grow the company, he'll be forced out and someone less good will take the helm. (good)

Can he be? He owns twice as many shares as the next largest holder (Accel I think). I seem to recall reading that he had various governance structures in place that guaranteed him control, but idk exactly what that referred to.

It doesn't matter, it's just a rule of politesse that the elites don't attack each other personally in public. It might even be beneficial because it allows the focus to be on Facebook's actions rather than the colour of Zuck's soul.

I mean this is a childhood friend and co-founder talking about him.. It's obviously going to be a different tone than a whistle-blower / media etc trying to take him down ( and perhaps rightly so but that's a different discussion ).


Let's be clear, the issues go far beyond clicks, but the ways that Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and the others in similar roles in the industry have, at best, failed to notice (and thereby allowed) how their platforms to be exploited to manipulate society.

At best, Zuckerberg is a Useful Idiot (in the Vladmir Lenin sense), easily manipulated into tasks that, in this case undermine democracy and make the world safer for authoritarianism. He's also accepted non-trivial funding from RUS oligarchs with RUS mob links; make of that what you will, but as one learns more about the recent history of the oligarchs, one has far less room to consider it innocent.

The story related to Cambridge Analytica, the Russian Internet Research Agency, the Russian GRU is only being reported in a few place,s but it shows the tip of the iceberg that is a critical threat to our society and western democracies -- and a threat that specifically exploits platforms like FB, Twitter, Google, Youtube, etc.

To oversimplify for brevity: There is a very long history in the intelligence/counterintelligence world of Active Measures campaigns including dezinformatsiya (targeted disinformation) to influence the political situation of adversaries. These have now been adapted and target specifically the social media networks. The payoff per ruble spent has been enormous compared to straight military spending. The threat is simultaniously diffuse and hard to identify (lack of transparency at the SocMed companies doesn't help), and yet a potentially existential threat to society as we know it. Proper democracy is inherently unstable, and easy to tip into many failure modes.

Some useful sources to get basic familiarity with the problem: [1] quick overview: https://twitter.com/carolecadwalla/status/112502595179091558...

[2] More excellent coverage at the Guardian over the last few years: https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/cambridge-analytica-...

[3] Ex-US NSA Analyst, basic primer, and many other well-sourced articles: https://observer.com/2017/03/kremlingate-russia-spy-game-dis...

[4] Bill Browder 'Red Notice', chronicling the history of his fund investing in Russia, the RUS govt theft/fraud of $230million, murder, and continuing insights into how

[5] Garry Kasparov, 'winter is coming' former world chess champion, Presidential Candidate in Russia, now exiled, chronicling the resurgence of authoritarianism in Russia and how & why it is exported to undermine western democracies.

Though you didn't explicitly say it, since all examples relate to russia and rubles.. this isn't a russia problem, it's a social media problem.

Plenty of US, Chinese, Saudi, Israeli, ABC, XYZ, PQ oligarchs manipulating public opinion via social media to suit their own political objectives.

Depending on the time and the situation, one country or another may/may not have more 'skin in the game' depending on the contextual stakes.. and their 'scary' involvement will likely be highlighted or ignored in the media based on congruence / conformity to the existing geopolitical status quo and editorial bias of the publisher..


China, Saudi and others are also major players in that game, each with their own angle, and often with overlapping interests, particularly in undermining democracy and making it safe for (often criminal) autocracies, by weakening the democratic institutions and/or warping them into services for their personal protection/gain.

I focused on Russia simply because that foe alone is a massive topic unto itself, and is currently most relevant (tho Jeff Bezos might first highlight the Saudis... but that is actually an example of overlap with Saudi and RUS interests).

So, yes, it is a problem at the root of social media and indeed search services too. I expect that at first, they never considered that threat model (just as airline security had never considered the threat model of hijacking an airplane to turn it into a missile prior to 2001). But they are also remarkably naive & slow to recognize the threat model and astonishingly feeble in their response to an existential threat.

Also Relevant

Russian GRU agents convicted in a coup on the Montenegro govt to prevent it from joining NATO https://outline.com/6ruvBv

While I agree with most of what Chris has said in the video (& the article), it's hard for me to consider his intentions as purely objective.

Chris Hughes has always been a democrat and has been part of Obama campaign and endorsed Hillary. Democrat leaders blame Facebook for how much it has contributed to their loss in the 2016 elections. To me, all of this makes sense. But, Chris being on the side of the democrats and coming up with these points, IMHO, makes it less objective. This also seems like a good time to come up with something like this, especially, when the candidates from both the wings have begun campaigning for 2020.

Ironic and hilarious how many ex-Facebook employees call for changes while greatly enjoying the wealth they've received from it. Talk is cheap. When are they going to do anything other than write op-eds?

> I don’t blame Mark for his quest for domination. He has demonstrated nothing more nefarious than the virtuous hustle of a talented entrepreneur.

What a strange juxtaposition. It would be a shame if "entrepreneur" now only refers to the VC dream of either domination or flaming death. There are many trajectories in between.

Zuckerberg's focus on "domination" in the company's early days, added to his famous "dumb f*s" comment, makes me even more certain that Facebook was rotten from the beginning.

The real problem is that too many people who didn’t have a voice before can leverage centralized platforms to spread their views to too many people (according to the NYT).

The internet has accelerated winner-take-all dynamics for good and bad.

The day will come when there will be no local news covering high school sports events or community activities. People will rely on viewing participant posts on social media. What’s lost here is that it is so easy to game the system and spread BS...

This is Chris Hughes trading on the only credibility he has left, which is that he participated in Facebook as an undergad and Harvard (but never quit school to pursue it full-time), amd by virtue of luck and his early contributions gets the status as "Facebook cofounder." His real ambition has been to become a figure in liberal politics. He bought The New Republic as a vanity project and drove it into the ground in two years. He and his husband moved to NY so that his husband could run for office in a purple district, he lost in a landslide (in a winnable district, too).

It's popular in liberal circles to blame Facebook for Trump, and so punishing them has become a cause celebre, but it will pass.

I got 2 words for you: regulatory capture. There's literally no chance that a guy who got invited to Bilderberg is going to have his company broken up (unless that were to somehow work to his advantage). He's made deals with the people that run the world. They won't touch him or his company.

“Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, says the company is so big and powerful that it threatens our democracy.”

considering how flawed democracies are, i say let democracy die. adopt democracy 2.0 (no parties, no president/pm, no cabinet ministers, elected speaker, continuous citizen participation) and that’s that.

I'm against direct democracy because I don't have the expertise or the time to make informed decisions about everything my government is currently doing for me. Direct democracy will likely devolve into a reign of demagogues imho.

>because I don't have the expertise or the time to make informed decisions about everything my government is currently doing for me.

I don't think our current career politician representatives do either.

>Direct democracy will likely devolve into a reign of demagogues imho.

That's more or less what we already have, I think.

An unpopular solution is some sort of qualification based voting, possibly per issue, say having subject matter expert vote on particular bills within their domain. But there's no realistic way of competence based voting without disenfranchising the vast majority of voters.

The Swiss might have something to say on this, living in one of the most stable and prosperous countries in the world which happens to be governed under something resembling direct democracy.

It's also fairly homogenous in terms of ethnic and socioeconomic demographics. It's a lot easier to have direct democracy when factors like this are limiting the presence of non-overlapping interest and ideologies.

The Swiss system is still pretty far from no parties, no president/pm, no cabinet ministers.

Sounds like a great idea, so:

- How do you feel about the minimal training of seafarers and the existing directives to that end?

- Also, the use of vehicles hired without drivers for the carriage of goods by road?

- Amending the regulations contracts for sales of goods?

- Postal services directive?

- Sustainable urban mobility?

- and, of course, cableway installations, how about those?

"Well", you might say, "If you're going to pull facetious examples out of thin air..."

But I'm not; you can find the pdfs here:


It's just a list of an MEP picked at random where she was shadow rapporteur.

Are you really going to read through those documents to make an informed decision about all these topics?

Democracy and its politics isn't just about the fun, high-profile stuff you find interesting.

Personally I'm pretty happy I can pay someone to read and write all that stuff for me, and then make a decision based on a broader alignment that I share with them.

Have you read any of these reports? Are you sure they are truly necessary? There have been written reports on the human rights situation of Woman all over the world since the 70s. Do you think those reports contributed to anything? Their formulation is extremely formulaic, the people writing them are underpaid interns or overpaid politicians, that got that cushy job by years of mingling in their respective home countries party system. They don't truly represent the will of the people. In the UN it is especially egregious, you have cousins of African strong men, sitting next to sons of Saudi rich men.

I'm not sure I follow. The original claim was that it would be better to create a democracy without politicians and with continuous citizen participation.

The point wasn't the reports, or the quality of the reports, but the wide range of topics a random politician would have to be at least somewhat informed about to make a decision.

> They don't truly represent the will of the people.

So what is the true will of the people when it comes to safe cableway installations?

Also, I'm not sure if countries get their seat on the UN through elections, so I'm not sure how your example relates to the topic of democracies.

As someone famous once said "democracy is the worst system apart from all the others". You can keep your "democracy 2.0" I'd rather see Facebook forced to follow the spirit and rule of law.

i don’t understand this attitude. we know that democracy is flawed and the best answer is “we’ll keep it flawed”?

think how software evolves. now think how democracy stagnates.

i know humans are extremely conservative by nature, but this is just absurd.

Are you implying that there is a system free of flaws that we have yet to discover ?

First, "democracy" is pretty vague, do you mean direct democracy, representative democracy, presidential democracy, &c. Then "democracy" isn't a fixed thing, it's been changing continuously for thousands of years. 500BC Athens democracy hasn't much to do with today's US version of democracy. So no, we don't "keep it flawed".

Democracy means "power to the people", the way you implement it might be flawed but the underlying principle sounds very sane.

> think how software evolves. now think how democracy stagnates

Change doesn't necessarily mean progress. You don't get to "move fast and break things" in geopolitics.

You aren’t the only person to have had this idea. Most of those that follow through on it, have a tendency to commit war crimes.


Name one country where the democracy system in place is stagnating, and why.

And then in these cases, why/how less democracy would improve the people prospects altogether.

> we know that democracy is flawed and the best answer is “we’ll keep it flawed”?

As long as the democracy with flaws is better than the alternative, yes.

Democracy is all about how its implemented. There has been plenty of broken democratic systems before, its all about learning and improving institutions. For example, a democracy resulting in bipartism is hardly a very representative one. How you implement democracy will lead to multiple, different outcome in terms of political expression.

> adopt democracy 2.0 (no parties, no president/pm, no cabinet ministers, elected speaker, continuous citizen participation) and that’s that.

That's not “Democracy 2.0”, that's either 1.0 or a pre-release version, with modern liberal Western democracy spread out across something like the 4.x major version range (not every one on the same minor version.)

The version you are talking about doesn't work well with large, diverse, or otherwise complex societies, though it's fine for small hunter-gatherer bands.

Adopt democracy 3.11 where large private organizations are also subject to democratic rule

Let me guess, run on a blockchain too, right?

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact