Facebook’s Gone FUD: Why Big Tech Needs Regulation

I never thought I’d say it, but the Internet needs government regulation. The notion of cyberspace as a level playing field was an ideal many indie developers held on to fiercely in the beginning. But along came online advertising and search engine marketing, where anyone could pay-to-play based on secret algorithms; then came e-commerce and Amazon’s demise of the sole proprietorship (big box stores too) while never paying taxes; and now there’s social media, which has taken over millions of people’s lives despite well-known tech addiction issues and personal privacy hacks.

The idea of regulating something feels like you’re taking away a freedom or putting a restriction on me, especially when it comes to the Internet, my beloved, revolutionary wild west frontier. But alas, Silicon Valley needs a sheriff. Big Tech cannot seem to handle the real life threats their technology is creating, both in our country and around the world. And that’s what our government is for: To establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare.

Instead I’m writing about hate speech, fake accounts, personal privacy stolen, election manipulation, disinformation campaigns, false advertising, and flawed, monopolistic business practices. Does this sound like America? No, but this is Facebook today. Their business model simply isn’t worth it: To collect data about you so they can target you with ads? Meanwhile identity thieves are stealing our data and our government still has done nothing about it. Congress please tell us: What have you done to investigate whether Facebook can make it through the 2018 election season without another national crisis?

Last week Google got hacked, and this week Facebook got hacked twice… what are we learning from this? Earlier this year Facebook took out full-page ads in the U.S.’s and U.K.’s biggest newspapers pledging to protect users’ personal information. They said if they can’t, they don’t deserve it. Well, we just learned they don’t deserve it. Misinformation distributed by social platforms like Facebook has led to people being arrested, jailed, and in some cases killed. There’s even a NetLingo word for it: FUD. But millions of Americans love their Facebook and want to keep it, so what to do? Time for an educated Congress to step in.

But first, what did Facebook do about this latest theft against them and 50 million of their users? They tried to bury it: As the news of the data breach spread over other sites, you could barely find reports of it on Facebook. Hmm, and what is Facebook going to do next? Spend $1 billion to acquire a digital security firm. Hey Facebook, you told us we were already secure. Sounds like insanity… doing the same thing but expecting a new result. Even you, Mr. President, can realize that more security might help, but it won’t fix this.

Sure enough, the Internet won’t get safer without the government stepping in. Now there are new reports that even Silicon Valley accepts the need for coming regulations. Bravo! But, of course there’s a catch: Big Tech wants to help now only to try and persuade elected officials to create laws that are weaker than the privacy laws currently in Europe and coming to California. Smells like more lobbyists to me.

Meanwhile, it’s clear Congress: Regulatory agencies must hold Big Tech accountable for patrolling their platforms and ensuring that hostile users are removed immediately, and for restricting false accounts. There should also be penalties for companies with bad data security, whether it’s heavy fines or annual fees. Don’t you already have a blueprint for this with the latest Wall Street debacle? Oh wait, you just voted on the biggest rollback of Wall Street regulations, didn’t you? Please Congress, follow the European GDPR formula and look to California to lead by example before the chicken littles are proven right and there is a catastrophic event due to hacking or disinformation.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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