Regulating Facebook: A Proposal

Charles Fitzgerald at Platformonomics:

Instead of “breaking up” Facebook, retroactively undoing acquisitions, or other rage-based remedies, the proposal here is to turn the social graph underlying Facebook (and only the social graph), into a separate, regulated utility. The social graph is a fancy term to describe the basic profile and list of friends associated with every Facebook user.

Today, different parts of the sprawling Facebook application call a common application programming interface (API) to get this list of your friends whenever they need that information. They might use this list to know whose content to use when compiling your newsfeed or give you options to message or poke or whatever it is people actually do to each another on Facebook (admittedly I’m not much of a user myself).

Instead of whacking at them with a hatchet, we’d take a precision scalpel to Facebook and excise the social graph API and its underlying data (and to the degree Facebook is consolidating the social graphs of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, that makes it easier for our new utility, but we can operate one time or three times as needed). The new regulated Social Graph Utility would control and operate the social graph. Facebook would naturally continue to access the social graph (and be required to do so under specific terms and conditions). But anyone else outside Facebook could also access the social graph through an API governed by a stringent license.

Interesting idea but unnecessary if you just Ban Digital Advertising.