I think Social Media, and Big Tech is heading for a reckoning; whether you like it or not.
We can sure thank the 1984 Divestiture of AT&T for the creations like the MacBook, the iPad and Facebook, and thousands of other “innovations” that AT&T for sure wouldn’t come up with. Unlike the perceived notion of Ma Bell; AT&T wasn’t out to make a quick buck, that was until after the start of 1984. AT&T was a regulated monopoly, and was granted such via the FCC.
Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and many other alternative technology companies even AOL and Yahoo, were coming along after the 1984 Divestiture and thrived even further when the commercial Internet was put for sale. Prior to the mid 1990s, the overall internet was governed by universities; as way for users to access other university libraries and resources. This is why Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives the Facebooks, Yahoos of the world immunity of indecent communication; that’s also including potentially misleading voters in elections.
Twitter has come with scrutiny of withholding at least two separate stories from the New York Post with regards to Hunter Biden and alleged sexual misconduct. While the NYP is not the most accurate tabloid in the country; Twitter went so far to suspend Donald Trump Jr’s account for sharing the NYP article from their hosted WordPress site.
Under Section 230, Twitter could be in non compliance; because they are now becoming a news agency, that is not protected under Section 230; and can be held liable for libel and slander; of which the providers of the content is immune. That is to say someone could sue someone directly; but the platform like the Twitter or Facebook wouldn’t be sued directly.
This is a sticky matter. I like to think more about Facebook because Mark Zuckeberg was well known to had favored Hillary Clinton early on in the 2016 federal election. But yet Donald Trump was argumentatively used it as a political weapon, and with some foreign aid; he was most likely able to win the election; with the doubt of it being fair and square.
Ironically why he allowed this to occur was it made Facebook money. But Facebook was still operating at a scale of the 2005 era startup culture of under 50 people; when in reality civil unrest prior to the 2016 federal election was on Facebook’s watch, and chose to do nothing. In a 2018 Frontline episode entitled The Social Dilemma; execs acted very naive and very innocent they did nothing wrong; while then Donald Trump’s digital campaign manager, Brad Parscale basically told the Frontline reporter that they won on “algorithms written by liberals” at Facebook. Facebook won financially, but claimed in the 2018 midterms they would crack down on the fires that were sparking across their very own platform.
Conservatives: The Internet is Private Property [Get off My Lawn!]
Conservatives had taken over the Internet as early as the 1990s, with the growth of Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich’s then hostile-takeover of the Republican party. USENET or other list-serve mail lists were the medium of the right. Matt Drudge introduced the world with the Drudge Report just in time for the Bill Clinton sex scandal. While his site for many, many, many years looked like it was done on an original iMac using BBBEdit, his site was popular to the right. All he did was took the headlines from the mainstream media and pushed the headlines that were often buried on their sites on the top.
In the late 2000s, a man named Andrew Breitbart (who actually helped built Arianna Huffington’s original carnation of HuffPo) decided to go alone. Originally breitbart.com was actually what the Drudge Report should’ve looked like. Breibart’s site was built on the same concept, but with Web 2.0 hot features at the time like RSS feeds, social media integration, etc. Then just before his passing in February 2012, plans to build it as “news” site (actually I should say the standards are lower than Star magazine you see at the checkout lines); and fusing separate blogs such as Big Government, Big Hollywood that was Tea Party’s fodder against the alleged “establishment” out to get Joe the Plummer, or people like him for that matter.
In short, the conservatives took advantage of the growth of sites (later apps) like Facebook to congregate and segregate themselves to the real world of both conservatives and liberals having to get along. This is where the present-day division began. This is where they felt Section 230 should be It’s Private Property…get off our lawn!
Social media companies act as if they are holier than thou. While I was not alive to witness the AT&T brohaa, I still strongly believe AT&T felt guilty and went forward with Divestiture, and turned switches into casinos, and the ideals of dreaming of having telephone poles with For Sale signs actually be sold by the Phone Companies. The breakup of AT&T, with the deregulations set forth in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, with the Communications Decency Act was very lengthy laws that was in reality, legalized-regulation-with-a-law-book-attached.
Facebook is not your typical Fortune 500 Company that want’s to teach their employees how to be good workers. Not even Amazon, Twitter, etc. Facebook lead the moral bankruptcy. Facebook picks and chooses who should be important via automated scripts; but yet it’s a private platform governed by their own rules; and yet while someone can choose to use Facebook, Facebook without much consent is trafficked across 80% of the Web traffic via embeds and commenting platforms; building what they call is “shadow-profiles”, so by the time someone *choses* to use Facebook, they already got an idea who their users are.
Facebook since the beginning was a clunky, hard to use platform; and this is their way to say complexity is cool; it must make people think or something. This has not changed, but such changes have hit platforms they had acquired like Instagram, and Whatsapp, that is the Messenger for the rest of the world. Prior to that Microsoft’s MSN Messenger was the defacto standard for outside the States. Instagram is becoming harder to use, as Facebook insists social networking can be done by sharing pictures. Facebook wants target users who never planned or want to use Facebook or chose to leave Facebook altogether, but many still think it’s a separate product. Not to mention “shoplifiting” key features from other apps like Snapchat’s story-like feature where posts get removed every 24 hours, with zero retention, or at least that’s what people think.
No one likes more regulation no matter what political leanings you choose; but there are two options I can think of: Rewrite the rules of Section 230 to fit what The People think should think or amend Section 230 as a double-down to existing practices and the rest of us have to suffer.