Regulating Facebook?

When you leave, you leave not because of the problems of Facebook but because the herd is not there.

Facebook is all about privacy, safety and democracy. It is a free platform and looking at its original objective, it was a powerful tool to “stay connected to the people they love, make their voices heard, and build communities and businesses.” But it has also lead to “fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.” It is an engine that you can do what you want and clearly opt-in or opt-out are built in the process. You have language, a platform that is able to reach networks of people in a fast clip. It creates a buzz and leads to a swarm so it trends.

In the late 1990s, Microsoft had its congressional hearings on its so-called “dominant position”. There was a handful of lawyers and communications expert. They never bothered about building relations with regulatory agencies. That led to the breaking down of Microsoft and a building today full of lawyers, public relations specialist and communication experts. This led to the United States v. Microsoft Corporation, a U.S. antitrust law case, ultimately settled by the U.S. Department of Justice, in which “Microsoft Corporation was accused of holding a monopoly and engaging in anti-competitive practices contrary to the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Will Facebook be the next breakdown? Would there be regulations like controlling ISPs (pipes of the Internet) and/or platforms like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon and others?

The congressional testimony of Facebook Founder/Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was an attempt to rescue democracy from demise. We heard the R word or responsibility. We also heard in the opening salvo, “we didn’t take a broad view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I am sorry. I started Facebook, I run it and I’m responsible for what happens here.” Textbook response, right? But this is a much better response than the days of Bill Gates in the Capitol.

Is there real competition? Average Americans use 8 apps to communicate with their friends. On the question of monopoly, Zuckerberg said, “it doesn’t look like that to me.” The fine print is not a holy grail for Facebook because these days, people just do not read and just jump into technology. When your friends are there, you stay. When you leave, you leave not because of the problems of Facebook but because the herd is not there.

European Union on April 2016 enacted the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR. It is an “expansive data privacy measure that turns the heat up on companies and organizations that make use of peoples' personal information. The new regulations govern the ways an individual's private data can be collected and exploited.” It is said to go into effect by May 2018. “Non-compliance equates to massive fines: For the most serious infringements — which include exploiting user data without the proper consent — it's up to 4 percent of a company's annual income, or €20 million.”

 The behemoth might be slayed by the U.S. Congress. Will the other side of the globe raise hell? How much are we willing to give away?

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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