Op-ed: Facebook’s moral failure shows the need for competition and is a test for Congress

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  • Whistleblower Francis Haugen’s testimony confirms what we’ve known about Facebook over the years—that it will always prioritize growth and profit over everything else.
  • Over the past decade, antitrust enforcers have been sleeping on the switch as Facebook expanded its dominance through the acquisition of its competing threats.
  • Without competition or accountability, there is no incentive to replace Facebook and other unregulated tech monopolies, which have made the Internet less secure, and Congress needs to act.

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Reps. David N. Sicilian, DR.I., and Ken Buck, R-Colo. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on No-confidence has the chairman and ranking member respectively.

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Last week, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who turned whistleblower testified before the Senate about the thousands of internal documents she disclosed wall street journal Showing how Facebook’s algorithms fuel discord.

similar to testified, “Facebook repeatedly faced conflicts between its own benefit and our security. Facebook consistently resolved those conflicts in favor of its own benefit.”

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This latest evidence of Facebook’s ethical failures is credible and damning, but these concerns are not new.

Instead, this evidence confirms what we’ve known about Facebook for years – that it will always prioritize growth and profit over everything else.

For example, about four years ago, Facebook’s former head of development said That “We have created tools that are tearing apart the social fabric of how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistrust.”

But this outcome is not inevitable – it is a policy choice.

Over the past decade, antitrust enforcers have been sleeping on the switch as Facebook expanded its dominance through the acquisition of its competing threats.

WhatsApp and Instagram would be separate companies with different incentives, which were not acquired by Facebook.

Prior to the purchase, the founders of WhatsApp had slammed the creation of the company specifically for surveillance advertising and extracting users’ data. as they said In June 2012, “You are the product user when advertising is involved.”

Similarly, before being acquired by Facebook, Instagram focused on improving the quality of its platform rather than simply increasing virality at all costs.

As Sarah Fryer wrote in “No Filters,” Instagram’s founders resisted adding a re-share button because it would give it “less power to model behavior; everyone would just focus on going viral.” “

While none of these transactions were challenged by antitrust enforcers, we now know that Facebook acquired these companies – as well as others – following a well-documented pattern of beating their competition. as part.

In documents obtained by the subcommittee, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the company’s former chief financial officer in 2012 that the aim of acquiring nascent competitors such as Instagram was to neutralize competitive threats and maintain Facebook’s dominance.

In other internal documents, senior Facebook executives similarly described the company’s merger and acquisition strategy in 2014 as a “land grab” to “strengthen our position”.

In the wake of these acquisitions, Facebook began making changes to WhatsApp and Instagram, which degraded these products, making WhatsApp less secure and Instagram less secure. In each instance, these changes were designed to promote addiction at the expense of user privacy, safety and security.

As a result of Facebook’s efforts to monetize WhatsApp through targeted ads and commercial messaging, the company’s co-founders resigned in 2017.

Less than a year later, the co-founders of Instagram reportedly left the company after Facebook refused to provide it with sufficient resources To protect the health and safety of users on the Platform.

Since then, we know what the real cost of this consolidation has been.

Instead of the competition and the likes that make Facebook a more trustworthy company, users are left without options as surveillance and exploitation become the business model of the Internet.

Incentive matters. In the absence of competition or accountability, Facebook and other unregulated technological monopolies have no incentive to change, making the Internet less secure and less secure.

As Ms. Haugen testified, “at present there is no one else to hold Mark accountable but himself.”

As a result, WhatsApp has become a ubiquitous messaging platform that often acts as a firehose for propaganda, leading to civil unrest around the world.

company on instagram internal studies show that nearly a third of “teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” while “13% of British users and 6% of American users reported wanting to kill themselves on Instagram.” Turnt up.”

Finally, as Facebook’s outage from last week made clear, the company serves as the essential communication infrastructure for billions of people, underscoring the broader scope of the problem.

At the same time, the Internet has become more hostile to the kind of competition and innovation that is needed to counter the dominance of Facebook and other platform monopolies.

At its core, this issue is not just about market failure or consolidation. It’s basically about what kind of society we want to live in, and whether we have an economy where businesses fighting for economic survival to create better products and a better future can be successful.

But we have options on the table.

In June, we worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a package of sweeping reforms from the House Judiciary Committee to subdue Big Tech.

These bills would prevent the types of mergers that resulted in Facebook taking over the market and killing off competitors, as well as create new rules of the road for the digital economy to ensure that the next generation of startups and other businesses have a decent market share. There is an equal playing field. .

This law is about making more choices for people so that they don’t get stuck with the same bad choices every time, a bombshell story about how Facebook and other companies are abusing their data and trust. .

But it’s also something else—about our economic future in the United States.

Do we want to live in a country where success is defined by competition between startups and new entrants with the best ideas, or will the biggest companies with the biggest lobbying budgets do anything to protect their monopolies?

Across party lines, Americans have had enough.

In poll after poll, Republicans and Democrats agree on the overwhelming basis that these companies have too much power and that Congress should curb their dominance.

Congress has a choice. We can either implement these meaningful improvements—among others that will protect the privacy and security of online users—or we can continue to listen and debate the problem because nothing changes.

Inaction leaves these practices and is itself a policy decision. If Congress doesn’t address these problems, we will not only fail our test, but also partake. We must act.


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