The growth of Facebook in the last decade has led to immense political and social change. With that change has also come turmoil and irreversible damage to democratic processes and governmental institutions we uphold.
This poses a big question: Is Facebook’s power growing out of control?
Internet and the Law
The government gave the internet specific protections from outdated laws during its infancy. With a clear split between user and platform, sites could not be held legally accountable for their users’ actions.
For example, YouTube as a company is not legally responsible for its users’ criminal posts and videos.
In good faith, websites like YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr developed community rules and policies that would curtail the misuse of their platforms. Facebook adopted these policies to restrict what users could and could not post on the platform.
The government agency that made this distinction for the rising social media and tech industries was the Federal Trades Commission.
The shortcomings of these in-house policies were wildly apparent during the 2016 presidential election. The FBI eventually found that Russian interference potentially influenced voters with the use of misinformation.
At the Congressional hearing, Rep. Jan Schakowsky read a list of apologies from Mark Zuckerberg over the years: "It seems to me from this history… that self-regulation simply does not work." https://t.co/7sB5ol8IuU pic.twitter.com/PYyMQ3iuOx
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) April 11, 2018
Government response to failing In-house policy
Congress attempted to address these issues by asking Mark Zuckerberg to testify and answer questions about privacy and the inner workings of Facebook.
Unfortunately, many of the government representatives did not understand tech. The representatives were not prepared to ask pointed questions about the issues at hand.
On a fundamental level, they asked uninformed questions about emails and how data works. Similar to the hearing with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, The hearing completely missed the mark.
The assumption that Mark Zuckerberg is in charge of far more companies than he actually is, is understandable. Facebook has been acquiring more and more of its competitors. Facebook’s most notable achievements have been Instagram and WhatsApp.
In allowing for this merger, the FTC has failed to uphold Anti-Trust regulations.
Anti-Trust laws exist in order to deter the emergence of monopolies. Monopolies are companies which control the majority of a given industry which gives them an unfair advantage.
Monopolies deter competition and lead to the fixation of prices over products. Anti-Trust laws stop mergers that may lead to monopolies and require monopolies to break up their control.
What’s at stake?
In a recent opinion piece on NYTimes, co-founder of Facebook Chris Hughes called for the breaking up of Facebook’s monopoly over the social media industry. Hughes explains how Facebook dominates the industry in an unfair way.
By buying upcoming tech start-ups and apps for low prices or simply copying their innovations, Facebook continues to unfairly reign supreme. Because of this, Hughes states:
“So despite an extended economic expansion, increasing interest in high-tech start-ups, an explosion of venture capital and growing public distaste for Facebook, no major social networking company has been founded since the fall of 2011.”
In a world where we promote diversity and opportunity, the tech we use is doing the opposite. Hughes calls for support for public servants that combat Facebook’s unfair advantage over our communication and you should too.