Move Fast and Ban Things

Move Fast and Break Things was the title of Jonathan Taplin’s 2017 book (if you haven’t read it, stop reading this blog and pick it up!). “Move fast and break things” was Facebook’s battle cry in the early days. Now it looks more like move fast and ban things, like news. Or maybe move fast and burn things?

Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau criticized Facebook for its news ban during the wildfires. Access to proper information about fires saves lives, Trudeau argued. But Facebook played the monopolist’s card in its effort to avoid paying news organisations for content – the same standoff between news media, tech companies and policy-makers as seen in Australia and Europe.

Coming up with better things to ban (or burn) than news would be easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Genocide propaganda, fake news, fake ads, phishing, identity theft… add your favourite nuisance. But never mind that, here is a more interesting idea: what if Facebook were to be held to account by the same standards as other media outlets? What if it had to publish corrections? If there were a proper procedure in place for wrongful posts? An appeals function for publishing names or personal information (no not the Oversight Board “deflection”)? Transparent procedure and proper follow-up? An independent body looking after the rules (no, not the Oversight Board!)? You know, media ethics stuff. The systems that have been developed in all democratic countries to protect freedom of speech and the public opinion formation processes. These problems have been solved. Same problem, different technology.

I know, I know: it’s just one blogger’s opinion and there is no reason why tech platforms should agree. But perhaps some prime minister with good hair could look in that direction? Probably more useful than complaining about it in traditional media, which is banned by Facebook anyway.

Move fast and fix things.

Footnote: Jonathan Taplin has a new book out. Review coming at Netopia next month. Watch this space.