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From Down With Tyranny
The revelations about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have come and gone quickly, like a fiery auto crash into a 10-foot wall, the remains of which nevertheless disappear overnight -- in this case replaced by the next Trump scandal to hit the news. Pedestrians walking past the crash site today can only smell the fumes of earlier fevered concerns.
Yet the Facebook problem remains, if barely considered now. As we wrote earlier, what Facebook did in that case was no more than it was designed to do. Not only that, but what Cambridge Analytica did was follow a path others had tread before, except that this time the "Trump! Russia!" taint had made its own deeds unacceptable.
But ask yourself, if either political party had done what CA did, would this be news? A scandal? Or just "how things are done around here"? And given the power of this kind of private company over the public, is its very existence in the public interest at all?
Each of these aspects of its nature adds implications to the "What to do about Facebook?" question. As a monopoly, should it be broken up? If so how? As a mass manipulator, should its activities be curtailed? As a source of great wealth to very powerful people, it presents all of the obstacles to altering its activity as does, for example, the problem of addressing the harms done by Wall Street. And as a utility, should it be allowed to continue as a private operation, or be nationalized and run in the public interest only?
"Nine Steps to Restructure Facebook"
The article's title: "Facebook must be restructured. The FTC should take these nine steps now." I recommend reading it in full, but I want to present today just the authors' suggestions for "fixing" Facebook. These are their recommended nine steps:
1) Impose strict privacy rules on Facebook, perhaps using Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation as a guide.
2) Spin off Facebook's ad network. This will eliminate, in one swoop, most of the incentive that Facebook now has to amass data and to interfere and discriminate in the provision of information and news.
3) Reverse the approvals for Facebook purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram, and re-establish these as competing social networks.
4) Prohibit all future acquisitions by Facebook for at least five years.
5) Establish a system to ensure the transparency of all political communications on Facebook, similar to other major communication networks in the United States.
6) Require Facebook to adopt open and transparent standards, similar to conditions the FTC imposed on AOL Messenger in the AOL-Time Warner merger settlement in 2001.