One of the things I’ve missed writing about in recent years is tech — I spent a decade writing about it as the Internet came on line and various new services came and went.
Honestly, I’m kind of disappointed in how much of the tech media has failed to really grasp the existential crisis created by tech mega giants like Facebook and Google. Back in the old days, everyone kvetched about Microsoft, but even at its most powerful semi-monopolistic, it never had or abused power the way Facebook and Google have in recent years.
Apple is a separate issue – which also bears government intervention. But that’s a subject for another day.
Google controls what you see, who gets paid (very little) and has access to most if not all of your personal data. Facebook has pirated content, legally, sold ads against it and then essentially run the content creators out of business by panicking when Russians gamed their system to throw the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
Both companies need to be broken up and regulated in order to restore some normalcy.
Google is actually the easiest one to break up, ironically. All of its ad serving/selling business needs to be split into three competing companies to restore the competitive market Google ended by buying most of its competitors. Search would could be split into two — again, creating competition. Android would be another division, maybe with the home device unit. Google Apps need to be split off into another company and limits placed on what data can be shared without express permission from unwitting users.
In the end, Google needs to be split into six or seven companies.
Facebook is a stickier situation. Instead of breaking up, it needs to be heavily regulated.
First off, all ads have to be identified as such (admittedly some progress has been made on this front). Second, no data from “overhearing” conversations on your cell phone or other device should be allowed to be used for any purpose without a very specific opt-in and frankly, some sort of compensation.
Third — and boy, this is going to hurt — Facebook must pay royalties to all content providers, retrospectively to 2010. Something on the order of a penny per view for the Copyrighted material taken from other sites. With billions of dollars of profits, the company can well afford to share with those whose content helped drive that growth. Additionally, it would provided badly needed revenue for publications starved of both page views and ad dollars by Facebook’s unethical and, I think, illegal behavior over the last decade.
Last, the company needs to improve its ability to root out professional and amateur spreading of hoaxes, false information and so on. By hiring professional editors to properly evaluate cites and sources, every link on Facebook could be given a color grade from green through red — with government driven efforts, such as those by Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia to influence public opinion through false narratives be given a “black” rating, as in “Black Ops.” Doing so would begin to make clear how much foreign and often hostile governments are using the platform to attack the U.S.
While those are common-sense solutions, I have zero expectation that any of them will be adopted. One of the largest failures of the Obama Administration was a failure to properly pursue antitrust violations — apparently fearing that the administration would be seen as too anti-business.
The Trump Administration? Surely, you jest. Aside from the fact that Republicans typically support monopolies and unfair business practices as being part of “true capitalism,” Trump arguably won because of social media tampering, some of which I suspect the campaign coordinated with.
These two companies are toxic and need to be regulated. it won’t happen until too much damage has been done to our media landscape.
That means we all lose.