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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Sounds terrible? Good. That's what Facebook is doing now.
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.
You can eliminate ~95%+ of junk calls from the telco side.
The incentives aren't there, of course.
But even if not, it would already be a drastic improvement on what we have.
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.
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.
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.
And CA “leak” was way more tame than this, just the information displayed on your profile for all of your friends.
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.
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?
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.
Having to ask the friends for approval doesn't scale.
There is the fundamental conflict between a social network platform and privacy.
IMO that would do a lot to reduce the monopoly power of social networks and platforms like Youtube, and be fundamentally fair.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
And Google has been monetizing that profile for a lot longer than Facebook has.
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.
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 , this is harassment.
Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can break it. Which would fix it.
"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.
This is a piece about Facebook specifically. You shouldn't expect that he address every monopoly that should be broken up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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).
That will turn around quick if Pornhub actually succeeds in buying it.
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?
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/
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.
in other words, would banning surveillance business kill FB, Google ect? Would we still want that law if that was the case?
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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?
This ubiquitous practice of commenting on contentious topics using throwaways reveals much of that's wrong with HN culture.
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.
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
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.
Cause all I see is people using both...and the publicly available data supports that
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Look at CenturyLink/Qwest/Layer3/Embarq(Sprint)
Wrote more about what I think is better replying to a child comment of yours. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19868464
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.
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.
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.
Regulation can often help incumbent businesses by raising the barrier to entry for competition, which allows higher monopoly rents.
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...”
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
There but for fortune.
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 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?
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?
Users are already Leaving.
I don't see why we can't let FAANG grow big and fail like every other company.
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.
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.
I haven’t heard about google products being used to organise genocides though, but Facebook has.
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.
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.
Do you really not see the problem with suggesting people switch careers every time an overbearing corporation starts exerting excessive control over their industry?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
A common aphorism that approximates this is "you catch more flies with sugar."
I think it's a legit rhetorical device.
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.
this american life did a whole show on “good guys” (including exploiting the “good guy discount”).
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.
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:
 quick overview: https://twitter.com/carolecadwalla/status/112502595179091558...
 More excellent coverage at the Guardian over the last few years: https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/cambridge-analytica-...
 Ex-US NSA Analyst, basic primer, and many other well-sourced articles: https://observer.com/2017/03/kremlingate-russia-spy-game-dis...
 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
 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.
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.
Russian GRU agents convicted in a coup on the Montenegro govt to prevent it from joining NATO
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.
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 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...
It's popular in liberal circles to blame Facebook for Trump, and so punishing them has become a cause celebre, but it will pass.
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 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.
- 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.
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.
think how software evolves. now think how democracy stagnates.
i know humans are extremely conservative by nature, but this is just absurd.
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.
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.
As long as the democracy with flaws is better than the alternative, yes.
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.