Federal government This week, the Internet platform reform movement escalated sharply. Surgeons classified false information as a public health threat. The White House press secretary called on Facebook to delete 12 accounts that may be responsible for up to 65% of Covid’s false information on the site. When talking about Facebook, President Joe Biden said, “They were killing people,” but walked back a day later. Then, he appointed Jonathan Kanter (Jonathan Kanter) to be in charge of the antitrust department of the Ministry of Justice, who is the head of the EU’s antitrust case against Google. The necessary reforms may eventually be required.
Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter have become the core communication platforms of our society, but together they have undermined public health, democracy, privacy, and competition, and brought disastrous consequences. Most Americans understand this, but don’t want to be inconvenienced by losing their favorite Internet platform. It is difficult for them to understand the scope of the problem. These platforms have successfully muddled the water and used their huge wealth to attract a large number of academics, think tanks, non-governmental organizations and many politicians.
It is easy to understand why platforms resist reform so hard. Covid misinformation, subversion of democracy, invasion of privacy and anti-competitive behavior are not wrong. They are examples of Internet platform business models that work exactly as designed. The problem is that platforms like Google and Facebook are too big and insecure.
At its current scale, the number of active users is about twice the population of China, and platforms such as Google and Facebook are systemic threats similar to climate change or pandemics. In the best case, fixing them will be a challenge. But today, the courts succumb to economic power, Congress is still paralyzed, and the government is our best hope. Forty years of deregulation and reduced funding have left our regulatory infrastructure almost devoid of tools and muscle tone. Fortunately, former FTC consultant Tim Wu was appointed as a member of the National Economic Commission, antitrust scholar Lina Khan was appointed as FTC chairman, FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission of the US Securities and Exchange Commission Gary Gensler, and Kanter are brilliant moves because these leaders understand the problem and will make the most of the limited tools they can use. Getting this correct return would be huge.
The first challenge facing the president and his team is to solve the problem correctly. So far, policy makers have tended to regard the harm of Internet platforms as not systemic, but as a series of simultaneous problems. Due to limited tools and time, the government must look for highly leveraged opportunities.
Internet platforms are media companies that rely on consumers’ attention, but are relatively traditional media. They have unprecedented scale and influence. They are monitoring engines that collect user data. They supplement this by obtaining location data from mobile phones; health data from prescriptions, medical tests, and apps; web browsing history, etc. With all this, the platform has created data voodoo dolls that enable them to predict user behaviors that can be sold to advertisers and power the manipulative recommendation engine. Platforms can use this power to make users happier, healthier or more successful, but instead, they use data to take advantage of the emotional triggers of each user, because doing so is easier and generates more revenue and profit.
The past five years have proved that Internet platforms cannot be persuaded to reform themselves. They do not believe that they are responsible for the harm caused by their products. They believe that these injuries are a reasonable cost of their success. This is why Facebook did not do anything meaningful after learning that it was used to intervene in Brexit and the 2016 presidential election. Why the company shrugged after the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar and the live terrorist attack in Christchurch. Why it ignores warnings about radicalizing users into QAnon and being used to organize and execute rebellions. And why Mark Zuckerberg and his team pretended not to be responsible for spreading Covid false information.Since 2016, politicians, civil society groups, and activists like me have been trying to persuade Facebook to change its business practices for the public interest and executives Always choose the company instead of the country.