Facebook shouldn't own your social graph
"Get News. Not too quickly. Avoid social. — Farhad Manjoo"
It's time to break up the Facebook social media monopoly.
There has been a shift in attitude towards regulation of tech companies recently, according to Axios:
"A majority of Americans are now concerned that the government won't do enough to regulate how U.S. technology companies operate, according to an Axios-SurveyMonkey poll. Across the board, concern about government inaction is up significantly — 15 percentage points — in the past three months."
Roger McNamee recently suggested a subscription model in a Washington Post OpEd:
"Despite a firestorm of criticism, Facebook refuses to make material changes to its business practices. It has also refused to provide substantive data about Russian interference to congressional committees, despite several requests. As a result, we can expect interference in the upcoming midterm elections. Anyone can follow the Russian playbook; many are likely to do so."
I've made the same argument myself:
"I tried Diaspora and App.net but they make Google Plus look lively. Facebook, I would pay you for an ad-free, brand-free experience. Also a ban on text on images."
Facebook is unlikely to switch to an ad-free subscription model without being forced to do it. And if we're going to force them to do something why not make them open up the social graph?
Your social network should be your property and you should be able to move it between providers at will. All social network providers should push your content out to your network regardless of where your friends live and accept content back in the same way. Content may be blocked or altered based on community standards on import but never on export. We should mandate this portability and interoperability via legislation.
This means you can 'live' on Facebook or Google or somewhere new. Social media can become competitive again. You might choose to pay a subscription fee to have a friends only feed (maybe in the order that it was published). You might choose censorship, or you might prefer a platform that can handle breastfeeding. There will be plenty of room for innovation on top of the core network. Facebook will probably be a smaller company. Democracy might last a little longer.
This doesn't solve all the problems with Facebook (and social media in general) but it could be an important first step.
(Photo by Shripal Daphtary on Unsplash)
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