It's not a choice: social media companies need to maintain their networks
During a senate hearing yesterday, both Facebook founder & CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter co-founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey were in the hot seat. Topics ranged from platform biases to what constitutes an immediate post take down to whether or not these platforms can moderate the content on their platforms at scale. And it's the last topic that really piqued my interest.
In a tweet from NY Times tech reporter, Mike Isaac, he highlights one point in particular made by Jack Dorsey, "A centralized global content moderation system does not scale." To which I say, that's a real problem. When Jack says it doesn't scale, he means, it's too expensive (remember, companies are cheap af).
These platforms were built with scaling up in mind, mass usage across the country and the planet. That's what they're designed for. To hear the CEO of a major social network come out and say that it's essentially too expensive to moderate these massive networks is honestly disgraceful. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are literally pulling our democracy apart through the sheer amount of misinformation and disinformation that is allowed to flow freely through the networks. I'm not alone in my thinking either.
I think Kara Swisher lays it out very nicely here:
"An almost perfect system for propaganda," – let that sink in for a minute. These social networks, which were once a fun place to share pictures with friends and innocent memes have become breeding grounds for propaganda and none of these companies are doing enough to combat it, for exactly the reason Jack Dorsey stated earlier: it's too expensive. Do you know what I have to say to that? Too bad. You built these platforms, you need to maintain them. The same way the state and federal government is responsible for keeping our roads and bridges maintained (though they've been slacking on that). But you get what I'm saying, the concept is the same. You built the roads, you maintain them.
Frankly, I don't understand how what Jack Dorsey said is even an acceptable response to perhaps the greatest threat we're facing of this generation. I don't understand it because if it's too expensive to moderate and maintain your platform, then you shouldn't be operating it in the way you are (or at all). Being too expensive isn't an acceptable reason to continue allowing these companies to subvert democracy, which is exactly what they're doing. These aren't the same fun, friendly platforms of yesteryear. Wake up, people!
Look, I'm not naive, I don't think Facebook and Twitter are going anywhere just yet, and it's becoming quite apparent that they're not too interested in helping rebuild democracy, but perhaps the government can speak their language and offer tax incentives/subsidies to companies like Facebook and Twitter that comply with some kind of content moderation program. While this wouldn't completely solve the issue, it certainly couldn't hurt to throw more resources at this growing problem.
On top of that, we need to invest more in education for both children and adults about how to vet and verify information online. Without an investment in education, we'll just end up back where we're at right now down the road. What that specific education looks like, I'm not really sure yet, I'd imagine it starts in schools – another thing this country needs to invest more heavily in – early on, give students critical thinking skills to determine whether something is fact or fiction, show them proper research techniques, how to verify a source, etc. Instill that in them at a young age and we'll have much more informed public.
What do you think? How should social networks be handling the mass amount of disinformation out there?