Regulating Facebook in the Name of Democracy

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Facebook is among the titans of social media–but hardly a friendly one.  In fact, according to an in-depth analysis by major Facebook investor Roger McNamee, social media giants like Facebook represent a grave threat to democracy.  In a piece entitled “How to Fix Facebook–Before It Fixes Us”, McNamee arrestingly characterizes the most well-known dimension of the danger this way:

It reads like the plot of a sci-fi novel: a technology celebrated for bringing people together is exploited by a hostile power to drive people apart, undermine democracy, and create misery. This is precisely what happened in the United States during the 2016 election. We had constructed a modern Maginot Line—half the world’s defense spending and cyber-hardened financial centers, all built to ward off attacks from abroad—never imagining that an enemy could infect the minds of our citizens through inventions of our own making, at minimal cost.

McNamee concludes that—as currently constituted—the social media giants are “an existential threat to our democratic processes and independence.”

Although McNamee is alarming in outlining the breadth and depth of the problems he lays at the social media monopolists’ feet, he also provides a careful analysis of their roots, which allows him to conclude by offering a series of possibly useful political and regulatory fixes.   (A radio interview with McNamee is also available.) What’s missing is a description of an online civic alternative like USATalk.

 

 

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