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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.)




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