Zuckerberg Hearing: An Opening for Regulating Social Media?
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Zuckerberg Hearing: An Opening for Regulating Social Media?

It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Pieres coming to you from Baltimore. Social media giant and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
concluded two days of Senate and House committee hearings on Wednesday and Thursday this week. 44 senators, almost half of the Senate, was
there to see how Zuckerberg would respond to the recent fallout from the revelation
that companies such as Cambridge Analytica have harvested the data of 87 million Facebook
users. Cambridge Analytica is a political consulting
and data mining company owned by conservative billionaire Robert Mercer, and until 2016
had Steve Bannon as its vice president. Zuckerberg apologized a lot, but senators
were for the most part easy on him, and often quite ignorant of what Facebook actually does. Here’s a clip of one of Zuckerberg’s answers
on the issue of surveillance. I think people often ask what the difference
is between surveillance and what we do. And I think that the difference is extremely
clear, which is that on Facebook you have control over your information. The content that you share, you put there. You can take it down at any time. The information that we collect you can choose
to have us not collect. You could delete any of it. And of course, you can leave Facebook if you
want. I know of no surveillance organization that
gives people the option to delete the data that they have or even know what they’re collecting. Joining me to discuss Zuckerberg’s hearings
and Facebook is Justin Anderson. He is a freelance writer who frequently covers
media issues. He recently wrote an article for FAIR, titled
“Who will take on the 21st century tech and media monopolies?” Thanks for joining us, Justin. Thanks for having me. So Justin, let’s start off with the Zuckerberg’s
hearings. I mean, when you heard that little clip off
Zuckerberg it seems to me he’s skirting around some of the issues, because since the story
broke there’s been lots of people who’ve been investigating how Facebook is operating and
the kind of data they have on us, including those that we are supposedly deleting is also
captured and kept. So do you think you have any meaningful testimony,
or anything meaningful is revealed by the hearings? And is this useful for us to regulate or bring
issues of our privacy under some containment? I think there’s, there’s a bit of good and
there’s a bit of bad to come out of the hearings. Starting with the bad, it seems like most
of the hearings were show trials for Zuckerberg rather than indictments of Facebook’s monopolistic
business practices. The good, however, is that there was at least
some noting by some of the senators and representatives that Facebook was a monopoly. Surprisingly, I saw that Lindsey Graham had
grilled Zuckerberg as to whether Facebook was a monopoly. Zuckerberg said that he doesn’t believe that
it is. And it’s also unlikely that Republican senators
like Lindsey Graham would actually go after Facebook on antitrust issues. But just to hear it mentioned and talked about
is a good thing. And what did Zuckerberg say when he was asked
about whether this is a monopoly? He denied that Facebook was a monopoly, saying
that it doesn’t feel like Facebook is a monopoly. I would certainly say that Facebook has a
monopoly. They along with Google are arguably a duopoly
in the digital advertising industry. Together they own about two thirds of all
digital advertising on the Internet. That’s not including China, but still, that
figure is astronomical. And the power that those two companies wield
over digital advertising is certainly much like a monopoly. Right. And on the issue of surveillance, Justin,
we saw in the clip that Zuckerberg basically thinks that surveillance and privacy is a
non-issue when it comes to Facebook because he says it’s only the material you put up
there. Just how powerful is Facebook, and how dangerous
can it be in terms of the way it surveils us and tracks us? Well, I mean, at the end of the day you do
get to decide what you put on the internet, but it’s very hard to operate in this day
and age without using a lot of these tech platforms like Facebook, or Google, or Amazon. And the amount of control that they have over
users’ data, particularly with regards to advertising and creating what Cambridge analytical
calls psychographic models, or what Facebook calls the social graph, the ability to build
these social profiles around people and then use those profiles to sell ads. It really contributes to the amount of power
that Facebook has in surveillance and control over people’s lives. Now, if you assume that these hearings are
largely held in order that legislators, regulators could actually come up with some plans as
to how to regulate the industry like this, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg actually conceded
that it might be necessary to regulate this industry, but no clear path that was defined
by way of questions, nor in terms of outcomes of these hearings as to how it might be regulated. What are your thoughts on that? So there’s a number of different approaches
that could be taken. I think the first is to emulate the European
Union’s data protection regulation, their General Data Protection Regulation, which
goes into effect this May. It’s very strict. It has requirements for monitoring and transparency
that are nothing like that in the U.S. It requires data consent agreements for users
and customers can ask to have their data deleted any time. It’s definitely a much stronger enforcement
mechanism that the United States can emulate. Also, you know, there’s talk of Facebook creating
a paid service, where users can opt out of sharing their data if they use the paid service. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg has talked about
this a little bit. There’s also a bill up in Congress called
the Honest Ads Act put forward by Senators Warner, Klobuchar, and John McCain that would
require transparency for campaign advertisements online. So that that’s one path. And then finally, you know, if you look at
just general antitrust regulation, the FTC essentially doesn’t have any commissioners
right now. Chuck Schumer has been holding up the nomination
for the commissioner, one of the commissioners of the FTC, along with the other four for
the Trump administration. And you know, just having the ability to look
at antitrust, you know, former acquisitions of Facebook, like Instagram or WhatsApp. And you know, future purchases like TBH, which
Facebook just acquired. Just looking at this sort of corporate consolidation
is something that the executive agencies could definitely do a little bit tougher. Now, earlier on I referred to the article
you had written in FAIR, which has a large section on media consolidation. What is the state of media consolidation,
and why is existing antitrust laws so ineffective in doing anything about it? Well, if you look at media consolidation today,
a lot of the big tech and media companies are, they’re concentrated among maybe three,
four, or five companies. You look at something like internet service
providers there’s only AT&T, Comcast, Charter, and Verizon. You look at big tech companies for digital
advertising, you have Google, Facebook. You also have Amazon, Apple, Microsoft. And then general media companies, you have,
you know, Comcast, and then CBS, FOX, is only a couple companies in each sector. And they’re increasingly consolidating across
sectors. So you know, Facebook, Google, Amazon, they’re
getting into content creation. Internet service providers like Comcast have
properties in the media sphere. So this sort of cross-consolidation is definitely
pervasive, and it limits consumers’ choices. And most importantly, antitrust regulation
for specifically companies that handle data like Facebook and Google and internet service
providers, they are essentially regulated looking at cost to the consumer. So you know, you use Facebook or Google, you
notice that they’re free. So by going along that line and antitrust
regulation, it’s a very outdated way of thinking about things, because when you look at free,
essentially free products online, the customers really are the advertisers, in this sense,
whereas the consumers are the product. All right, Justin, I thank you so much for
joining us today. And we’d like to follow up with you at some
point about the kinds of regulations that need to come forward in order to to regulate
this industry. Thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks for having me. And thank you for joining us here on the Real
News Network.

7 thoughts on “Zuckerberg Hearing: An Opening for Regulating Social Media?

  1. Not with the geriatric club that we have in the Senate, must didn't have a clue as to how the internet or social media works. they were all given donations beforehand and most of them have 60-70 yrs of age. zuckerberg won big time.

  2. Veteranstoday and southfront are blocked on FB. I posted how you can avoid FB censorship and my account on FB was deleted.

  3. Exactly the majority cannot function without using these "services", platforms yet to use them we are forced to be turned into a commodity so that other corporations can use our every keystroke to manipulate-propagandize-attack us & orchestrate society to in essence protect the oligarchy from the will of the people. They are utilizing the means which was supposed to help unite-connect us to prevent-mitigate meaningful association. The same goes for what telephone-internet "service" providers do pretending that we in order to function within society must give up our Right to be secure in our person-papers-associations etc..

  4. Facebook has 25,000 employees. Suppose the average income is $100K annually, and suppose 1/2 billion people subscribe to it. It would be $5 per subscriber for a year. Then no commercials would be needed to keep these 25,000 working. BTW total executive pay is 65 millions annually, that’s 2.6 percent of the assumed total wages. So nothing really would have to change to keep it running without commercials. But then the content could really be driven by all participants not those who pay for the ads. Let’s just create such an alternative for Facebook. Payed membership, say 10 bucks per year. No commercials, free content, only filtering out as good as possible clearly criminal intents, but no moralization, no one censoring “sexism”, “racism”, “offensive language”, “homophobia”, “Islam-Phobia”, “blasphemy “. Prioritizing and rankordering of content only based on peer evaluation. It’s a stupid and dangerous idea to expect Facebook to become the AI enhanced judge of morality and the number one guard of morality. But that’s what now a large number of people demand – they want to call the Robocop, and the senators are perfectly happy to make this happen. Facebook and the rest of the data oligopol becomes Big Brother even though they didn’t really want to be in that role. But now it’s public demand. The senators are perfectly happy to help along the creation of that dystopia.

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