Socialize Social Media


Social media is clearly an essential service in modern life.  I was thinking about this a while back, because blogs like ours are just not seen by the masses, and I wanted a solution aside from “link every post from a social media account.”  I couldn’t come up with a single answer that seemed likely to succeed.  It’s the agora, for better or for worse, and nobody wants to lose access to that.

The social media actually is essential has led to the proposal it should be owned and regulated by the government, not by private businesses.  That it should be socialized.  I had hit on this as a solution to the twitpocalypse, but I figured this had been proposed by others, and wikipedia served up an answer to that question.  The article I linked takes the usual pains to be neutral, includes the arguments of detractors, but you can see how flimsy those arguments are.

“It would harm consumers because only the competition of private enterprise drives innovation.”  Essential modern services like internet and phone service are horrible in the USA, carved up into fiefdoms by oligopolies that exploit corporate welfare, extort from customers, and provide the minimum service they can possibly get away with.  The supposed competition doesn’t exist, and government services are capable of innovation.  They do this all the time, usually in incremental ways.

Plus the most popular social media is the most simple fuddy-duddy retrograde one out there – Facebook.  Socializing the service isn’t an all-or-nothing deal.  The boring backbone service for all the oldsters and low-fi people, the one that connects families, helps dying uncles feel less alone, that one should be less innovative!  Facebook changes up its UI all the time to allow more ads and other creepiness, you think 70-year-olds love learning a new interface every three months?  Then all the other social media can stay private.  The most essential and basic version of social media is there to fall back on when businesses fail, all the fun zazzy insta tiktok whatever can continue to benefit from all the supposed magic of capitalist free enterprise.

“It isn’t essential, technically you can live without it.”  Technically you can live without phone service, until you can’t.  If it is the public square, keeping people out who couldn’t afford the internet connection is discrimination.  The conversations we have on social media have toppled governments; indeed they are within spitting distance of toppling the pretense of democracy right here in the USA.  That means access to those conversations is as important to representation as voting itself.

There’s more, but you get the idea.  The reason it has become critical to bring this idea back?  Musk has shown that all you need to violate the privacy of billions of people, to completely fuck up the program, is phat bank.  A decade of people communicating in private with each other, assuming the platform would conduct itself with a bare modicum of ethics, and all it took was one creepy apartheid heir with a few billion in the back pocket to burn that trust to the ground.

Every branch of the USA government including the military has official twitters.  I’m sure they weren’t using the DMs of those branches to send classified info, but it points to how vulnerable these systems are to bad actors.

This got me thinking, the USA has a lot of public services that have been made private.  We let private businesses handle our power, our telecommunications, and so much more – varying from state to state and sometimes city to city.  All of those services are potentially prone to billionaires with napoleon complexes.

What’s to stop Jeff Bezos from buying Verizon and then just shutting it down?  If he wants to burn his cash, he can.  If he decides to buy a major power company, then simply turn it off, he’s within his rights.  Municipalities with private waste disposal, what happens when that company is bought by somebody who just wanted to see your city buried in rats and sewage?

At the very least, come up with a social media platform comparable to Facebook, run by the government.  Zuck Fuckerberg, he can cry about that on his pile of gold bricks.

Comments

  1. says

    Of course, people will respond to this with “u trust the government?!?” Of course I don’t. But I don’t distrust an institution that requires stability as much as one that demands eternal liquidity and an utter lack of commitment to the public – ie, all corporations.

  2. lanir says

    Government would likely want people to use their real names or something. That’s kind of an issue.

    I think the other issue is going to be money in politics. I missed it at the time but a quick search found me a number of articles from 2020 about how the top 1% in the US have about 16x the wealth of the bottom 50%. That’s kind of an issue because while money doesn’t have free reign in politics the guardrails have huge, well-known loopholes.

    If you look around, we’ve also reached a point where we’re sort of stuck fighting to keep rights we already had from being swept away by a flood of that money. Because it’s more convenient for richer people if the rest of us struggle in various ways. Education and media bias are a big part of this. The situation we’re in stacks things against us in a lot of ways.

    If you want to nationalize Facebook or have a government run option on the table competing with it you’d run afoul of the moneyed interests. To them, watching the government take over a private company or provide direct competition to it is about the same as watching Great Old Ones marching out of the surf. It’s an existential crisis that threatens everything they care about. So in our current system they would shut it down by having their bought politicians vote against it or veto it and they’d spend enormous amounts on attack ads to convince the rest of us we didn’t really want that in the first place.

    So I think this ends up being one of the many, many progressive ideas that might be good for everyone but would require getting money out of politics to stand any chance of being realized. It might be worth watching Equal Citizens if you want to see how that’s going. They don’t usually ask for money but they sometimes kick out news as they slowly wind their way through the court systems in an attempt to shut down super PACs. There are probably other organizations like it as well if you want to go looking, that’s just the one I know about.

  3. says

    Considering the gov just allowed people to select gender on social security cards with no proof or transition required, who’s to say they’d do that? The USA is hella weird. Tho I am certain they would want SSNs EINs and such, only allow one account per person / business / org.

    Tho that point is meaningless to discuss, bc as you say, corporations will prevent anything like this from ever coming to the table.

  4. another stewart says

    With privately owned social media sites the self-interest of the customers (advertisors) acts as a modicum of a brake on tolerance of bad actors, in addition to whatever ethical limits the operators have. If the US government was to run a social media site I expect that the 1st Amendment would come into play, with the result that only actually illegal material would be censored (and free speech absolutism in the US means that very little is illegal).

  5. says

    Moderation would be a concern with government social media, but your first point was just completely nuked by musk. All you need to throw customer interest out the window is a baby rich enough to not care about financial losses.

  6. says

    There’s no need to nationalize Facebook or Twitter; just slap a lot of regulations on them to get rid of calls to commit serious crimes, defamation, incitement to hate or violence, doxxing…pretty much the same rules ordinary broadcasters have been working under since, what, the 1950s? Oh, and maybe bring back the Fairness Doctrine. In short, nothing really radical that’s never been done before.

  7. lanir says

    Hard to say if they’d insist on real names or not. It’s just that in most areas the government does just that as far as I can tell. But I suppose if you compare it to a P.O. box then it seems sometimes they’re content not sharing your info as long as they know they have it.

    Ethical limitations are… Well, they’re not something corporations are overly burdened with. No matter where you work or how good the setup seems to be, there’s always someone out there waiting to screw it up. All it seems to take is one asshole willing to point out that the company could make more money by screwing over its customers and the owners will fall all over themselves ordering you to do it. I’ve seen things like this happen even when all the people I work with are good people.

  8. says

    Raging – Nationalizing it would help it be more secure and less exploitation-driven, but regulation would surely have a much better chance of happening, and could be an effective solution. With the right laws, someone pulling the moves Musk is making right now could end up in handcuffs. I’d love to see that.

    The problem then becomes enforcement. Seems all our regulatory groups are hella toothless, or understaffed, or otherwise inadequate to the scale of unscrupulous activity wheeling our country from one boom-bust to the next. Con artists just operate in the bright light of day, doing nothing but changing the names of the grifts when one becomes technically illegal somewhere in some small way.

    Lanir – Agreed. This type of angling for loopholes and maxing out personal benefit by unethical means happens at every level of our society, but I’d say, when a corporation is publicly traded? Seems to make it a hundred times worse. Interesting to imagine a world without the blame diffusion of “I don’t own the corporation, it’s these other virtual entities bundled and distributed to these hundred other entities which are backed by these pensions and funds and…”

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