Early Facebook investor Roger McNamee published a scathing 3,000-word article adapted from his new book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe. Here's just one example of what's left him "shocked and disappointed": Facebook (along with Google and Twitter) has undercut the free press from two directions: it has eroded the economics of journalism and then overwhelmed it with disinformation. On Facebook, information and disinformation look the same; the only difference is that disinformation generates more revenue, so it gets better treatment.... At Facebook's scale -- or Google's -- there is no way to avoid influencing the lives of users and the future of nations. Recent history suggests that the threat to democracy is real. The efforts to date by Facebook, Google and Twitter to protect future elections may be sincere, but there is no reason to think they will do anything more than start a game of whack-a-mole with those who choose to interfere. Only fundamental changes to business models can reduce the risk to democracy. Google and Facebook "are artificially profitable because they do not pay for the damage they cause," McNamee argues, adding that some medical researchers "have raised alarms noting that we have allowed unsupervised psychological experiments on millions of people." But what's unique is he's offering specific suggestions to fix it. "I want to set limits on the markets in which monopoly-class players like Facebook, Google and Amazon can operate. The economy would benefit from breaking them up. A first step would be to prevent acquisitions, as well as cross subsidies and data sharing among products within each platform." "Another important regulatory opportunity is data portability, such that users can move everything of value from one platform to another. This would help enable startups to overcome an otherwise insurmountable barrier to adoption." "Given that social media is practically a public utility, I think it is worth considering more aggressive strategies, including government subsidies." "There need to be versions of Facebook News Feed and all search results that are free of manipulation." "I would like to address privacy with a new model of authentication for website access that permits websites to gather only the minimum amount of data required for each transaction.... it would store private data on the device, not in the cloud. Apple has embraced this model, offering its customers valuable privacy and security advantages over Android." "No one should be able to use a user's data in any way without explicit, prior consent. Third-party audits of algorithms, comparable to what exists now for financial statements, would create the transparency necessary to limit undesirable consequences." "There should be limits on what kind of data can be collected, such that users can limit data collection or choose privacy. This needs to be done immediately, before new products like Alexa and Google Home reach mass adoption."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.