Franklin Foer, the liberal former editor of The New Republic who wrote a pretty decent book about the depredations of Big Tech, observes ahead of Mark Zuckerberg’s big show today on Capitol Hill (about which, more here, here, and here):
In the face of Silicon Valley’s power, there’s a widely shared sense that the public has has no agency. Even if people weren’t thrilled with the terms-of-service agreements offered by the companies, they accepted them as the natural course of life on the internet. Media, regulators, and engineers all knew perfectly well that Facebook had created a pernicious system, yet they assumed there was no way to blunt it. This reflected a broader attitude toward both technology and the market.
In this environment, radical proposals suddenly become plausible. Regulation, which conventional wisdom held would never materialize in the United States, is suddenly theoretically accepted by Mark Zuckerberg as the cost of his failures.
The question, as ever, is what regulation would look like and how, in this instance, it would affect political speech. If you click on the first link in the excerpt, you’ll find a summary of H.R. 4077, the “Honest Ads Act.” That’s hardly an answer. As former Federal Elections Commissioner Brad Smith has pointed out, the bill wouldn’t block sketchy Russian ads so much as it would burden Americans’ freedom of speech.
Besides, the problem isn’t political advertising. (Well, that may be a problem, but not as great of a problem as the press has made it out to be.) The problem, stated briefly, is a gargantuan corporation controlling the flow of the news and other content it arbitrarily deems “unsafe.” (Something the far-Left has been kvetching about for a very long time, as it happens.) We’ll have more on this story later.