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 idea that 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.