It’s time to regulate Facebook, Twitter, Google, et. al.
I love just about everything about this, but the money quote, for me, is this, at 15:40…
“… when discussing the difficulty of removing content, Zuckerberg asked “where do you draw the line?” Yes, drawing the line can be difficult. But here’s what he’s really saying: removing more of these lies and conspiracies is just too expensive. These are the richest companies in the world, and they have the best engineers in the world. They could fix these problems if they wanted to.”
In the past couple days, I was mocked on Twitter for making the same argument. I’m convinced there is a small army of astroturfers working for Facebook, who run around telling people that we just don’t understand how hard it is (to remove garbage from the platform), and that it simply can’t be done, and we just have to live with the resulting dumpster fire.
I still say: Bologna.
What needs to happen, and SBC alludes to this in his speech, is that all postings should go through a sanity check before going live. As a 40-year, veteran programmer, I stand by my assertion that it would be possible to scan for a lot of stuff that should just be weeded out: pornography, violence, gore, racial slurs, and knowingly-inaccurate conspiracy theories, like anti-vax, flat earth, faked moon landing, and holocaust denial. The filters could catch 90% of that garbage, especially the egregious stuff. The rest could be marked for further review by human beings, which wouldn’t have to deal with the truly horrific stuff any more.
But here’s the rub: it would take another data center’s worth of kit to do this, which would be bad enough on its own for the sake of cost, but putting all posts through a “cool off period” while they were scanned would also be disastrous to “engagement,” which the company cannot abide, because it would be a massive hit to the bottom line.
That’s why it will never happen on its own. It must be regulated. The problem, of course, is regulatory capture, which is trivial, when you’re one of the 10 largest companies in the world. That’s a whole other ball game, which probably has to be fixed first. Sigh.