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Breaking Up Facebook Won’t Fix Social Media

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Executive Summary

There’s political pressure to break up Facebook, but that wouldn’t solve the problems that the social-media giant presents. To begin with, it wouldn’t even increase competition in the long run, because social-media platforms enjoy network effects, which always tip towards monopoly or near-monopoly. More importantly, it wouldn’t do anything to safeguard consumer privacy, protect election integrity, balance the need for free speech against the evils of hate speech, or slow the spread of misinformation. For those, we need structural reform.

HBR Staff/ohlamour studio/Stocksy

The Social Dilemma is one of the hottest films on Netflix. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a wake up call to the dangers of social media — and I’m a big fan. We need to focus attention on this issue; the alarm has been building since films like The Great Hack and books like Surveillance Capitalism and Zucked were published. My new book, The Hype Machine, starts where those movies and books leave off by asking: what can we do, practically speaking, to fix the social media crisis we find ourselves in?

One idea I discuss at length in the book is whether breaking up Facebook will fix the social media morass. Antitrust regulators are certainly eager to dismantle the world’s largest social network. Their argument for doing so cites a litany of real harms, including the erosion of privacy, the spread of misinformation and hate speech, the acceleration of political polarization, and threats to the integrity of elections. Competition, they argue, will force Facebook to fix these problems. However, ill-conceived antitrust action, without structural reform, will not only fail to solve them, it will make matters worse. To understand why, consider the economic logic of these businesses.

Social media markets tip toward monopoly because of network effects: The value of a networked platform is a function of the number of people connecting to it. As more people use the product, its value to everyone increases. The greater the number of people on a network, the greater its gravitational pull. The greater its gravitational pull, the greater the grip it has on current customers. Breaking Facebook up into its component parts might slow that process down — but it won’t change the fact that, in the long run, network effects create monopolies or near-monopolies.

The people running social media companies bolster the tendency toward monopoly by making it difficult for users to walk away: they make the their platforms incompatible with each other and keep an iron grip on the data we upload to them (and that they collect about us). If we leave Facebook or Instagram, we lose our pictures, our conversations, our very memories. We don’t want to give those things up — and we also don’t want to lose the relationships involved. These high-tech walled gardens, which are so difficult to leave, combine with network effects to tip these companies even further toward monopoly.

Creating competition in the social media economy is essential: imagine the positive effects for consumers if social media giants were competing to safeguard consumers’ privacy, for example. But while competition can help force platforms to compete for our attention with designs that protect our societal values, the market forces that push social media companies toward monopolies will remain even if Facebook is dismantled. Breaking up Facebook does nothing to promote the market conditions needed to sustain competition because network effects will simply push the next Facebook-like company into a dominant position. Breaking up one company won’t change the underlying market economics.

There’s a cost to getting this wrong. Network effects create substantial economic benefits for billions of people around the world. As those benefits depend on the connections we make through social media, dismantling the networks will reduce the benefits without addressing the economic forces that drive the social economy towards concentration. Economic measures like GDP and productivity growth don’t capture the consumer value that Facebook creates, because users don’t pay to be on Facebook. (And because they’re not captured, they’re easy for regulators to ignore.) But the value is real: researchers at MIT and Stanford have investigated how much people would need to be paid to give up Facebook; it turns out that ordinary people put a very high value on the service. The research estimates Facebook generates about $370 billion a year in consumer benefits in the U.S. alone. Now, imagine those benefits worldwide.

The antitrust case against Facebook ignores these economic conditions, and it does nothing to directly protect privacy, distinguish free speech from hate speech, ensure election integrity, or reduce fake news. In fact, it will make addressing these harms more difficult by creating more social platforms to regulate and oversee. Rather than politically expedient trust busting, we need structural reform — first to catalyze the competition that a breakup will fail to achieve and then to unwind the market failures wrought by the social economy, one by one. Let’s look at a few structural reforms that would helps us achieve the promise — and avoid the peril — of social media.

Making social networks interoperable and giving consumers the right to export their data. To foster competition, we need legislation that makes social media networks interoperable and allows consumers to take their data and their social networks to competing companies, as happens in the telecommunications industry. Number portability made cellular services more competitive: When the European Union insisted on the ability to take your mobile number, and thus your network of contacts who knew you by that number, to other services in the early 2000’s, the policy increased economic welfare by 880 million euros per quarter across 15 EU countries, accounting for 15% of the observed increase in consumer surplus from 1999 to 2006. Interoperability also leveled the playing field in chat messaging. When the FCC forced AOL to make AIM interoperable with Yahoo, MSN Messenger, and others in 2002, AOL’s market share in instant messaging fell from 65% to 59% one year later, to just over 50% three years after that. In 2018, AIM ceded the entire chat market to Apple, Facebook, Snapchat, and Google. Legislation like the bipartisan ACCESS Act would do the same for social media, forcing platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, to make their social networks interoperable and giving consumers the right to export their data.

Safeguarding election integrity. Congress should pass targeted legislation like the FIRE Act, the SECURE Our Democracy Act, and the Voting System Cybersecurity Act to harden our elections. In addition to fighting fake news, social media companies must make firm, verifiable, and enforceable commitments to make data available for research into social media’s effects on democracy. Risk-limited election audits should safeguard against attacks on our outdated voting systems. The details could be worked out in a bipartisan National Commission on Democracy and Technology.

Protecting privacy and data. Federal privacy legislation must harmonize ad hoc state policies and balance the moral, practical, and utilitarian importance of privacy with the need for data sharing to support investigative journalism, scientific research, commercial applications of machine learning, audits of election integrity, and the economic surplus generated by the advertising economy.

Attacking the spread of misinformation. To slow the spread of misinformation, the platforms must use algorithms, employees, and the crowd to label fake news, make sources transparent, prohibiting advertising next to false content, limit resharing (as WhatsApp did to slow the spread of Covid-19 misinformation), and demote verifiable health or political misinformation in search results. Meanwhile public and private education should reemphasize media literacy and critical thinking.

Finding a better balance between free speech and hate speech. To protect free speech while curtailing harmful speech, we must draw sensible boundaries around the protection from civil liability afforded to the social media platforms by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230 makes a free and open internet possible. Removing it would limit internet freedom and make many of the world’s largest online businesses unworkable. However, regulations can limit the cases under which 230 applies. Rather than have politically appointed commissions like the FTC or the FCC deciding under executive orders when 230 should apply, representative, deliberative legislative boundaries, similar to FOSTA-SESTA, should be drawn to balance free and harmful speech.

Breaking up Facebook could take 10 years. By the time that happened, the landscape of social media would look nothing like it does today. Forward-looking legislation that ensures competition, open markets, and a level playing field, alongside market and legislative remedies for misinformation, privacy, free speech, and election integrity, will chart a more productive path than backward-looking attempts to unwind networks and companies that already exist.

Clarion calls are great. But it’s time we moved past them to real, practical solutions. We don’t have time to waste debating whether social media is good or evil. By now we know it has tremendous promise and the potential for significant peril. We must shift the conversation from how fast we are approaching the impeding rocks to how we steer this ship toward calmer waters. The time for action is now.

Source:- Harvard Business Review

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Canada and Botswana to co-host 2nd media freedom global conference – Radio Canada International – English Section

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Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney attend a news conference on media freedom as part of the G7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Dinard, France, Apr. 5, 2019. (Stephane Mahe/REUTERS)

Canada and Botswana are joining forces to co-host the second edition of Global Conference for Media Freedom, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced Monday.

The online conference is expected to take place on Nov. 16 and will bring together representatives of traditional and digital media, civil society and various governments, Champagne said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet will deliver the keynote address at the conference.

Former president of the United Kingdom Supreme Court Lord David Neuberger and noted human rights lawyer Amal Clooney will co-chair a high-level panel of legal experts on media freedom, officials at Global Affairs Canada said.

“A vibrant and free media is essential to democracy and human rights,” Champagne said in a statement. “During this critical time, we must stand together to protect the freedom of media workers who pursue necessary truths, within and beyond our own borders.”

Canada and the U.K. co-hosted the first Global Conference for Media Freedom in London in July 2019.

Since 2015, Canada has invested $18.2 million in programs supporting the media and the free flow of information, according to Global Affairs Canada.

Canada ranks 16th on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), while Botswana is in the 39th place among the 180 countries represented in the index.

This 2020 edition of the Index suggests that the next ten years will be pivotal for press freedom because of converging crises affecting the future of journalism.

The index singles out five critical areas for the future of journalism in the next decade:

  • a geopolitical crisis (due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes)
  • a technological crisis (due to a lack of democratic guarantees)
  • a democratic crisis (due to polarisation and repressive policies)
  • a crisis of trust (due to suspicion and even hatred of the media)
  • an economic crisis (impoverishing quality journalism)

“We are entering a decisive decade for journalism linked to crises that affect its future,” RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“The coronavirus pandemic illustrates the negative factors threatening the right to reliable information, and is itself an exacerbating factor. What will freedom of information, pluralism and reliability look like in 2030? The answer to that question is being determined today.”

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China retaliates against news media in latest feud with US – The Battlefords News-Optimist

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BEIJING — China has ordered six U.S.-based news media to file detailed information about their operations in China the latest volley in a monthslong battle with the Trump administration.

A foreign ministry statement issued late Monday demanded that the bureaus of ABC, The Los Angeles Times, Minnesota Public Radio, the Bureau of National Affairs, Newsweek and Feature Story News declare information about their staff, finances, operations and real estate in China within seven days.

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The announcement came five days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said six Chinese media would have to register as foreign missions, which requires them to file similar information with the U.S. government.

The six were the third group of Chinese media required to do so this year. Each time, China has responded by forcing a similar number of U.S. media to file about their operations.

The ministry statement said China was compelled to take the step “in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the United States.”

Pompeo, in making his announcement, said the targeted Chinese media are state-owned or controlled, and that the U.S. wants to ensure that “consumers of information can differentiate between news written by a free press and propaganda distributed by the Chinese Communist Party.”

The media is one of several areas of growing tension between the two countries as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China over trade, technology, defence and human rights.

The U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston earlier this year, and China responded by shuttering the U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

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Media City, Signpatico join forces to become Vendo – Media In Canada

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Media City, Signpatico join forces to become Vendo

The two companies are using their regional footholds as an advantage in their growth strategy.

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media city

The two companies are using their regional footholds as an advantage in their growth strategy.

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