Social Media Needs to be Regulated

Do what thou whilt shall be the whole of the law.

Social media has been a hot-button issue since it initially cropped up and continues to remain so as old platforms die and are replaced with newer ones. However, because of the nature of the beast, it’s hard to even learn from what the older platforms did wrong so the newer ones can learn from their mistakes. They just keep on making the same mistakes over and over, and with our over-reliance on them, and their monetization scheme, there’s little end users can do to influence the way the platform is designed. Topics will get raised or buried in algorithms completely transparently to the humans who use them. Rules and censorship is applied unevenly and for often arbitrary reasons. Some foreign interests have even been shown to have a pretty massive influence on what gets promoted, much of which is targeted at destabilizing communities and spreading propaganda.

Facebook is probably the most notorious for their rules being being arbitrary and applied unevenly. The worst part is when you get in trouble, you’re generally not even allowed to know why. The refusal to even say what was done wrong is so scummy. That shouldn’t ever be an acceptable answer. That’s some secret police fascist kind of nonsense. It rings of “There is no war in Ba Sing Se.” Just disappearing people without a trace, notice, or even an idea as to why. How can you be expected to follow rules that aren’t rules? Also, how do some people end up in Facebook jail or outright banned like that all the time and I’ve only ever gotten a warning once and it was presumably for something stupid? I really don’t understand why they think that’s an acceptable business practice. It isn’t and they said as much when they tell customers “We understand knowing the exact violation causing your account to be suspended would be helpful for you to understand what to avoid doing in the future.” They know it’s bullshit but they don’t care because they’re not forced to care. They’re unregulated and unrestrained and yet we give up so much of our lives to them. This is why a large number of people have been migrating over to Discord as an alternative. It’s way more straightforward and there’s no content algorithm that buries posts under piles of adverts, “suggested pages”, and reposed chain-letter type nonsense.

Then there is the dumpster fires that are Twitter and Reddit. Twitter, now X…kinda, I don’t even really need to explain because everyone pretty much knows how Elon Musk bought it and immediately started running it into the ground with such bad ideas it’s hilarious, but also frustrating. Pretty much every decision he has made since obtaining the platform has been a mistake and it’s just a matter of time before the platform crashes and burns.

And Reddit…well Reddit is a dumpster fire of bad takes, toxicity, and idiocy.

The biggest problem with them though is their monetization schemes. The users aren’t the customers. The users are the product. It’s a social contract we all begrudgingly tolerate simply because we have no choice. Advertising has always been the main way that web-based companies stayed afloat and that only increased with the ways they can harvest private information for profit. They will always tailor their product, you, for their customers, the advert industry, not the other way around.

There’s no easy answers but coming up with those are what we pay our legislatures to do. That’s literally the job they are elected to do after all. Unfortunately congress in the states seem completely disconnected from reality and have no good answers beyond just flirting with banning various platforms entirely for this or that reason. If you ask me, what we really need though is a extremely nuanced, fluid response team for social media not unlike the FCC but more focused and with clearly defined goals. They could set the standards by which the regulations are created and enforced and respond to changes in near real-time. Bad behavior must be punished in a significant way. Google has proven time and time again that It’s perfectly willing to break the law with their system until forced to follow it and fines are rarely ever sufficient. They just get included in the cost/benefit reports to be considered by executives. That should not happen. Breaking the law shouldn’t just be a part of a revenue equation. We need significant jail time for CEOs. We need to hold the board responsible when they drive people to break the law for their financial benefit. And most of all we need these algorithms to be tooled to promote content that upholds our values rather than just whatever clickbait happens to be popular at any given moment. The way that so many people have become so disconnected from reality because of them is a huge warning sign we don’t take seriously enough.

We need strong regulation and we’re not getting it.

Love is the law, love under will.