Simple Guide to Regulating Social Media: How to Breakup Facebook

Separating communication and contents is like saying the water utility shouldn’t be in the business of turning your taps into coke machines. That’s the whole thing in a nutshell.

Status (like money, ideology and ego) is power, which is a question of authorization and consent. Very different from generic content.

Nobody should want 1950s “Mad Men” of advertising agencies to own and run all the communications infrastructure in the United States. It’s like saying nobody should want tobacco companies peddling literally cancerous “social entry” messages to be in charge of actual social entry requirements (e.g. you must smoke to enter).

Likewise, nobody should want the 1930s “America First” of media empires to own and run all the communications infrastructure in the United States.

This is a very different model from the plain delivery of information, which may or may not carry status and power-changing content. I’ve written about this many, many times here. The Carterfone fight with AT&T is a perfect example of this fight in the 1960s, since it centered on harm with regard to delivering content only; nothing to do with the content itself (Carter wanted to wirelessly receive calls while he rode a horse on his ranch, simply by adding a radio extender to his phone).

It was at this point the government split service providers from the hardware devices being connected to them, which unleashed the entire Internet by allowing modem and fax markets to be born.

America has a long tortured history in this aspect of regulation of communication, such as during the Andrew Jackson administration when he pushed “gag rules” and aggressively sought to intercept mail to censor abolitionist speech, including arresting sailors at ports to confiscate their books, imprison and torture them into disclosing social contacts.

History thus should be helpful in charting the course ahead.

It warns us plainly how decoupling infrastructure ownership from the tangled power struggles over its content (e.g. measures of benefits and harms) is what delivered far safer and better technology-driven market for ideas, especially because it reduced threat of monopolization by private entities’ harm-based business model.

Woodrow Wilson nationalizing infrastructure set off alarm bells for good reason, given he had just restarted the KKK from inside the White House. Yet at least within government the evil gag rules and inspection of mail, or the U.S. nationalization of its wires, these orders could be repealed. What option is there in monopolization such that the private company runs the government?

Thus when people ask what is to be done about the long documented and discussed harms of Facebook, the answer has always been somewhat obviously government regulation to remove those profiting from pollution from owning the plumbing too. Break these two incompatible halves apart immediately (applying criminal charges where relevant).

Explicitly deny public infrastructure providers from running harm for profit schemes.

In related news, the Swiss government has split service providers from the software devices that are being connected to them:

…providers of chat, instant messaging, video conferencing, or Voice over IP (VoIP) services, such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Zoom, Teams, and Skype cannot be classified as telecom service providers, but rather “over-the-top” (OTT) service providers.

You should be able to dump a chat application (and its toxic contents) without having to lose connectivity entirely.

In also related news, American “Big Tech” is feverishly attempting to create monopolies where none should exist.

…the very tech companies pushing this idea stand to profit from it, because the national hub would likely be housed in the same companies’ commercial cloud computing services. …little more than a cash grab by what’s effectively the next generation of military contractors. The plan also could entrench the very same tech companies that President Joe Biden’s antitrust enforcers are working to rein in, these critics say.

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