Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.
We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.
It is time to break up Facebook.
America was built on the idea that power should not be concentrated in any one person, because we are all fallible. That’s why the founders created a system of checks and balances.
More legislation followed in the 20th century, creating legal and regulatory structures to promote competition and hold the biggest companies accountable.
Starting in the 1970s, a small but dedicated group of economists, lawyers and policymakers sowed the seeds of our cynicism. Over the next 40 years, they financed a network of think tanks, journals, social clubs, academic centers and media outlets to teach an emerging generation that private interests should take precedence over public ones. Their gospel was simple: “Free” markets are dynamic and productive, while government is bureaucratic and ineffective.
From our earliest days, Mark used the word “domination” to describe our ambitions, with no hint of irony or humility.
Facebook’s monopoly is also visible in its usage statistics.About 70 percent of American adults use social media, and a vast majority are on Facebook products. Over two-thirds use the core site, a third use Instagram, and a fifth use WhatsApp. By contrast, fewer than a third report using Pinterest, LinkedIn or Snapchat. What started out as lighthearted entertainment has become the primary way that people of all ages communicate online.
The F.T.C.’s biggest mistake was to allow Facebook to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp. In 2012, the newer platforms were nipping at Facebook’s heels because they had been built for the smartphone, where Facebook was still struggling to gain traction. Mark responded by buying them, and the F.T.C. approved.
The News Feed algorithm reportedly prioritized videos created through Facebook over videos from competitors, like YouTube and Vimeo. In 2012, Twitter introduced a video network called Vine that featured six-second videos. That same day, Facebook blocked Vine from hosting a tool that let its users search for their Facebook friends while on the new network.The decision hobbled Vine, which shut down four years later.
unlike Vine, Snapchat wasn’t interfacing with the Facebook ecosystem; there was no obvious way to handicap the company or shut it out. So Facebook simply copied it. (opyright law does not extend to the abstract concept itself.)
As markets become more concentrated, the number of new start-up businesses declines. This holds true in other high-tech areas dominated by single companies, like search (controlled by Google) and e-commerce (taken over by Amazon). Meanwhile, there has been plenty of innovation in areas where there is no monopolistic domination, such as in workplace productivity (Slack, Trello, Asana), urban transportation (Lyft, Uber, Lime, Bird) and cryptocurrency exchanges (Ripple, Coinbase, Circle).
The choice is mine, but it doesn’t feel like a choice. Facebook seeps into every corner of our lives to capture as much of our attention and data as possible and, without any alternative, we make the trade.
Just last month, Facebook seemingly tried to bury news that it had stored tens of millions of user passwords in plain text format, which thousands of Facebook employees could see. Competition alone wouldn’t necessarily spur privacy protection — regulation is required to ensure accountability — but Facebook’s lock on the market guarantees that users can’t protest by moving to alternative platforms.
Mark used to insist that Facebook was just a “social utility,” a neutral platform for people to communicate what they wished. Now he recognizes that Facebook is both a platform and a publisher and that it is inevitably making decisions about values. The company’s own lawyers have argued in court that Facebook is a publisher and thus entitled to First Amendment protection.
As if Facebook’s opaque algorithms weren’t enough, last year we learned that Facebook executives had permanently deleted their own messages from the platform, erasing them from the inboxes of recipients; the justification was corporate security concerns.
Mark may never have a boss, but he needs to have some check on his power. The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.
We Don’t Need Social Media
The push to regulate or break up Facebook ignores the fact that its services do more harm than good
Hughes joins a growing chorus of former Silicon Valley unicorn riders who’ve recently had second thoughts about the utility or benefit of the surveillance-attention economy their products and platforms have helped create. He is also not the first to suggest that government might need to step in to clean up the mess they made
Nick Srnicek, author of the book Platform Capitalismand a lecturer in digital economy at King’s College London, wrotelast month, “[I]t’s competition — not size — that demands more data, more attention, more engagement and more profits at all costs
infamous former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo wrote in his 2006 book that Newstead was the “day-to-day manager of the Patriot Act in Congress”.
The Patriot Act was passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and brought in a series of new federal crimes related to terrorism. The legislation was broad and much of the government’s expanded surveillance powers stemmed from parts of the act. It enabled, among other things, the controversial Section 215, which was used to justify the National Security Agency’s phone records collection programme.
It also had a “roving wiretap” provision, which allowed government to place a tap on all of an individual’s personal devices based purely on the approval of the notoriously permissive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
As The Verge points out, the Patriot Act also initiated the practice of “national security letters”, a procedure by which intelligence agencies can informally request data without any kind of court or ex parte authorisation, citing threats to national security. Facebook fields thousands of these requests every year, the content of which is generally subject to gag orders and therefore remains publicly unknown. In her capacity as general counsel, Newstead will be able to approve or deny these requests.
Like the circle-bound symmetry of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, the meat and bones of the human race are the same in 2018 as they were in 1490. And yet, we are different.
Michael Patrick Lynch, writer and professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut. “The digital revolution is more like the revolution brought on by the written word. Just as the written word allowed us to time-travel — to record our thoughts for others, including ourselves, to read in the future — so the internet has allowed for a kind of tele-transportation , breaking down barriers of space and physical limitation and connecting us across the globe in ways we now take for granted, as we do the written word.”
In the book Self-Tracking, authors Gina Neff, a sociology professor at Oxford University, and Dawn Nafus, a research scientist at Intel, describe this phenomenon as a shuffling between physical signs and observed recordings: “The data becomes a ‘prosthetic of feeling,’Advocates of this “prosthetic of feeling” argue that self-tracking can train people to recognize their own body signals, tuning the senses to allow for a greater grasp of biological rhythms.but what if the body-as-data is exploited by the state, or by an insurance company that can predict when you’ll get diabetes, or a data analytics firm that can use it to help sway elections? The Chinese government is going so far as to plan a social credit score for its citizens by 2020, giving each of the country’s 1.3 billion residents a reputation number based on economic and social status. What is particularly subtle about all this is that, like a scientific épistémè, our way of thinking is perhaps unconsciously guided by the configurations of knowledge these new technologies allow. We don’t question it.
Facebook goads us to remember past moments on a daily basis, the stacked boxes of tape in Beckett’s play replaced with stacks of servers in remote data centers in northern Sweden.“There is reasonable evidence that [the internet] has reduced our internal memory ability,” says Phil Reed, a professor of psychology at Swansea University.
Moderate tech use correlated with positive mental health, according to a paper published in Psychological Science by Andrew Przybylski of Oxford and Netta Weinstein at Cardiff University, who surveyed 120,000 British 15-year-olds.Again, the crucial question is one of control. If our way of thinking is changed by our intimacy with these technologies, then is this process being directed by individuals, or the ledgers of private companies, or governments keen on surveilling their citizens? If we conceive of these systems as extensions of our own brains, what happens if they collapse?
Brain-machine interfaces (BMI) are coming in leaps and bounds, with companies like Neuralink and CTRL-Labs in the United States exploring both surgical and noninvasive processes that allow computers to be controlled directly by signals from the brain. It’s a field that involves fundamentally changing the relationship between our minds, bodies, and machines.Kevin Warwick, emeritus professor at Coventry University and a pioneer in implant technology
In a recent article for The Verge titled “The Trauma Floor: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America,” a dozen current and former employees of one of the company’s contractors, Cognizant, talked to Newton about the mental health costs of spending hour after hour monitoring graphic content.
Perhaps the most surprising find from his investigation, the reporter said, was how the majority of the employees he talked to started to believe some of the conspiracy theories they reviewed.
Facebook has consistently shown that it puts what it thinks users want and its own interests above those of partners. It cut off game developers from viral channels, inadequately warned Page owners their reach would drop over time, decimated referral traffic to news publishers and, most recently, banished video makers from the feed. If Facebook wants to win creators’ trust and the engagement of their biggest fans, it may need a more competitive offering with larger limits on its power.
Social media is the best friend disinformation ever had, and the cure is far from obvious.
Anya Schiffrin is an adjunct faculty member at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She worked in Hanoi from 1997 to 1999 as the bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires.
Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics By Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, & Hal Roberts
Oxford University Press
A Harvard law professor who is a well-known theorist of the digital age, Benkler and colleagues have produced an authoritative tome that includes multiple taxonomies and literature reviews as well as visualizations of the flow of disinformation.
white supremacist and alt-right trolls
a history of the scholarship on propaganda, reminding the reader that much of the discussion began in the 1930s.
Benkler’s optimistic 2007 book, The Wealth of Networks, predicted that the Internet would bring people together and transform the way information is created and spread. Today, Benkler is far less sanguine and has become one of the foremost researchers of disinformation networks.
Fox News, Breitbart, The Daily Caller, InfoWars, and Zero Hedge
As a result, mainstream journalists repeat and amplify the falsehoods even as they debunk them.
There is no clear line, they argue, between Russian propaganda, Breitbart lies, and the Trump victory. They add that Fox News is probably more influential than Facebook.
after George Soros gave a speech in January 2018 calling for regulation of the social media platforms, Facebook hired a Republican opposition research firm to shovel dirt at George Soros.
The European Union has not yet tried to regulate disinformation (although they do have codes of practice for the platforms), instead focusing on taxation, competition regulation, and protection of privacy. But Germany has strengthened its regulations regarding online hate speech, including the liability of the social media platforms.
disclosure of the sources of online political advertising.It’s a bit toothless because, just as with offshore bank accounts, it may be possible to register which U.S. entity is paying for online political advertising, but it’s impossible to know whether that entity is getting its funds from overseas. Even the Honest Ads bill was too much for Facebook to take.