Thursday, January 24, 2019

Time Magazine takes on how to fix social media now, with one of Facebook's founders

The January 25, 2019 issue of Time Magazine has several long articles of major importance.
The cover story is by Roger McNamee, “I helped create this mess, here’s how to fix it.” The inside address, so to speak, is “How to fix social media before it’s too late; an early investor on how Facebook lost its way.” 
He says he mentored Mark Zuckerberg. He gives the usual argument now that the business model is predicated on creating echo chambers to serve users more ads based on passed likes.  It’s so scalable that eventually and actors and would-be authoritarians would sabotage it.  He talks about democracy, privacy, control your data, regulation, and humanizing.  Then there is tech addiction, and protection of children (especially from cyberbullying). The biggest proposal is predictable – break up Facebook into competing companies. 

Then Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, writes “It’s time for action on privacy; we all deserve control of our digital lives.”  Hate has no place on his platform.

There follows a particularly disturbing story by Philippines journalist Maria Ressa, “Facebook let my government target me, but the social-media giant could yet fulfill its original promise.”  The problem is that in a country like the Philippines, Facebook “is the Internet”. 

Laurie Segall writes :Be Afraid, Very Afraid” (I use that phrase in my DADT I book, Chapter 6).  One of the most curious ideas is “neural inequality”, with brain nanochips.  But actually, there is a great spread in IQ naturally among people – not necessarily because of race itself but because of environmental and upbringing differences that accumulate over generations. 

Eli Pariser writes “Restoring Dignity to Technology”, “how to design tools to set write what has gone wrong online.”

Donald Graham writes “Facebook will thrive: I would bet on its efforts to fix mistakes.”

Then the issue changes tone, with a big piece by Aryan Baker in Williston N.D., “The Survivor”, about the victims of sex trafficking, especially in the Midwest and in native American lands. She focuses on the deprivation of the young women who become vulnerable through gradual steps to pimps.  But the article does not get into the Internet or online liability issues that the controversial FOSTA law took on.

What is missing from all of this is the perspective of the individual speaker on the Internet.  He has taken for granted as a quasi-fundamental right what is more of a privilege.  True, the elimination of most downstream liability in 1996 (Section 230, and then Safe Harbor in 1998) gave me a new career, but what first kept politicians and media honest has suddenly grown into a runaway train where speakers who don’t have all their skin in the game now fuel the resentment that leads to action you don’t want.

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