Facebook shouldn’t be in charge of how you use Facebook
Unfollow Everything and the need for (good) tech regulation.
The Facebook whistleblower’s testimony was refreshing and frightening by turns, revealing the company’s awful internal culture, where product design decisions that benefited its users were sidelined if they were bad for its shareholders.
The big question now is, what do we do about it? The whistleblower, Frances Haugen rejected the idea that Facebook’s power should be diminished; rather, she argued that it should be harnessed — put under the supervision of a new digital regulator.
Regulating tech is a great idea (assuming the regulations are thoughtful and productive, of course), but even if we can agree on what rules tech should follow, there’s still a huge debate over how the tech sector should be structured.
Like, should we leave monopolies intact so that we only have to keep track of a few companies to make sure they’re following the rules? Or should we smash them up — through breakups, unwinding anticompetitive mergers, and scrutinizing future mergers?
For me, the answer is self-evident: if we don’t make Big Tech weak, we’ll never bring them to heel. Giant companies can extract “monopoly rents” — huge profits — and cartels can agree on how to spend those profits to subvert regulation.
We need to fix the internet, not the tech giants. The problem isn’t just that Zuck is really bad at being the unelected pope-emperor of the digital lives of 3,000,000,000 people — it’s that the job of “pope-emperor of 3,000,000,000 people” should be abolished.
I believe that people who rely on digital tools should have the final say in how those tools serve them. That’s the proposition at the core of the “nothing about us without us” movement for accessible tech, and the ethos of Free Software.
Technologists should take every reasonable step to make their products and services suitable for users, and regulators should step in to ban certain design choices: for example, algorithms that result in racial discrimination in housing, finance and beyond.