Tech Giants: Above the Law

This should be watched by every one but especially regulators and elected officials.

As I’ve said, Facebook isn’t email, that’s how you know it’s a publisher not a platform.   Users don’t communicate with each other, they communicate with Facebook.  Any claim that Facebook isn’t a publisher is self-serving nonsense.  Facebook decides which messages to highlight and which ones to bury.  These are editorial decisions.  It doesn’t matter if they are administered by an algorithm, they were designed by humans.

Facebook’s objective is to increase your participation (“engagement” in their language) and that means a structural bias towards outrage because, empirically, that’s what people respond to.  Outrage is profitable for Facebook, especially since tracking what outrages individuals makes advertising more effective.  But outrage is corrosive for both civilised behaviour and a well-informed civil society.  It is especially dangerous when outrage is the primary news source, an inevitability when the print alternative is no longer supported by advertising.

In economic terms, Facebook is only profitable because outrage is an external cost the public bears.  A recognised economic principle is that the polluter pays, so one way forward is to devise a mechanism to charge Facebook to encourage it to ameliorate its behaviour.  Personally, I’d just ban adverts from Facebook, force it to charge a subscription and regulate it as a utility whilst we sort out how to separate the socnet layer (identity/ publishing) from the content.