Facebook is a global mafia
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- Jacob Silverman, John Knefel, Alex Shephard, Daniel Boguslaw, James Robins, Caitlin Cruz, Melissa Gira Grant
- Feb 18 2021
- Word count
- 343 words
Australian lawmakers & political commentators seem to fundementally not understand what's going on. Facebook has disproportionate power, but like, so does News Corp. The proposed law doesn't actually make anything better. It just attempts to shuffle money from one international megacorp to another, at the expense of any smaller players with pockets not as deep as Facebook's.
Additionally, what's the actual math on this link tax? Obviously Facebook would prefer for it to not be implemented, but what if it is? How much money do they lose not allowing news vs how much is the linking fee? Could be that it's a perfectly rational decision even without 'intimidation' or anything like that. Linking to news isn't exactly Facebook's core business.
I always think that this sort of article should start by re-asserting some basic facts, for example that Facebook, Inc. is a for-profit corporation, publicly traded on the NASDAQ (maket capitalisation : US$ 475 billion) and as such, obligated by the laws of the United States of America to maximize the value for its shareholders.
Reporting, and insisting on, the net 2020 income of US$29.15 billion would also help set the perspective.
While the article does note, in passing, that
it would maybe be worth insisting on the fact that advertising is the one and only product manufactured and sold by this corporation.
With all this in mind, the concept of censorship is irrelevant here. No corporation is under duty, neither legal nor moral, to facilitate the access that citizens have to information.
The problem with Facebook, Inc. is not that it behaves like a for-profit corporation is meant to behave. The problem with Fakebook and other digital medias is multifold but mostly sums up to the fact that said corporations have taken up the trade of journalism with none of the moral and legal frameworks that were accrued during the 19^th century and that have come to define a certain idea of what "free press" means in respect to democracy.
In Australia and everywhere else, lawmakers are twenty-five years late at realizing the downsides of letting the World Wide Web be financed by advertising only.
No they are not. That is a myth.
Cornell Law School - Clarke Business Law Institute
Common Misunderstandings About Corporations
Thank you for those precisions and the citation.
Yet, in the sentence starting with
I'll add emphasis to
underlining that this interest is seldom the interest of society at large, and does not carry any obligation whatsoever to effectively work to the effect that the citizens have easy access to unbiased information.
The CEO of a giant corporation not abbiding to that pressure would be indeed quite unusual.
This is a myth so widely believed that it's impact is effectively the same as though it were true.
Isn't facilitating citizens' access to information the moral duty of information technology, media, and telecommunications companies? If Google decided that, say, refusing to answer searches about abortion, or QAnon, or just anything they couldn't sell the ads on, were best for their bottom line, wouldn't that be wrong? While as a private company they can do whatever they want, exercising that right in a lot of cases would make them a piss-poor communications service, and suddenly providing terrible service for no good reason to people who rely on you is wrong.
Isn't it? For-profit corporations in general tend to (and I can only conclude are thus meant to) behave like sociopaths: they can interact with people but lack the internal conscience, empathy, and fear of rejection systems that constrain the actions of people to be safe for those around them. Is the real problem with Facebook completely orthogonal to its lack of the capacity for empathy?
How so? If I make computers, suddenly I have a moral duty beyond just selling a good product? That sounds ridiculous to me. Certainly companies have a responsibility to act ethically and not sell defective or harmful products, but I don't think they have a moral duty to do anything. Who gets to decide the morals they're required to follow? I think following the law should be sufficient.
Absolutely not. (And as far as I remember, they are refusing to answer some searches about QAnon at least on YouTube now, aren't they?) They can decide to facilitate any kind of search that doesn't break the law that they want. That's like saying that Reddit shouldn't be allowed to ban Nazi sub-reddits because there are citizens who want that information. So what? It's their servers and they are allowed to limit the subject matter to anything they want.
Facilitating access to information is part of being a good computer. You make a good point that facilitating unrestricted access to all information is quite likely to be a net negative and produce a lot of collateral damage. But a system used by many to access news deciding that they will cut off that access to prove a business point is also quite likely to be a net negative with a lot of collateral damage.
Complete moral consensus is impossible and probably undesirable. But that doesn't mean that morals and moral obligations don't exist, just that reasonable people will sometimes disagree about what they are. A lot of times, the vast majority of people will agree in their moral judgements.
Following the law is almost certainly not sufficient if one wants to be a good person, natural or otherwise. The law defines what we all agree is so wrong that it is worth engaging the state to punish or prevent it, often through coercion. Not meeting that standard of wrongness isn't the same as being right.
I get where you're coming from but there are two major issues here. 1. They have effective monopolies in their respective fields, 2. They have fought off any real attempt at regulatory oversight.
There should be a law that dictates what can and cannot be posted, censored, or culled, unfortunately we don't have that and at the moment I'm not particularly comfortable with Facebook defining those parameters for the industry. It is an issue of scale. There should be moral impetus for organizations with this type of influence.
I do whish that the persons working in that field understood the concept of moral duty. As a software engineer with a career spanning more than twenty years, I've met such persons, but only a very few, and none in a position to influence the bearing of a company, let alone such a public-traded behemoth as Alphabet, Inc.. It is our moral duty as citizens, however, to push for legal obligations for those corporation to care also for society as a whole.
Corporations are not sentient beings and haven't any of the
They are giant automatons that operate within the confines of what is legally and technically possible and designed such as to maximize the value for the shareholder.
Of course, many things have changed in the fifty years since Friedman's manifesto, notably in the way that shares are apraised and traded, but also in the ways of advertising. The sole revenue of Alphabet, Inc., of Facebook, Inc., of Reddit, Inc. etc. is to sell targeted advertising to other corporations. You and me are not even customers.
Bottom line : despite all the noises about corporations being people, empathy and moral duty have no jurisdiction here. Only we, the people, can stand up and fight.
Am I misunderstanding the problem, or isn't the solution just ("just") to use other sources than Facebook to get (or spread) news?
I think the "just" is the issue. How do you dethrone a monopoly.
The monopoly is barely an issue here. Even if some anti-trust law were to break down Facebook, Inc. into 50 Face Booklets, the systemic ability of targeted advertising to distort reality would remain unchanged, or even harder to observe and counter.
I agree they are and I hate them for several reasons but I don't really include the recent spat with Australia, seems they're actually in the right there