Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Controlling Social Media?

I read a thought provoking, albeit a little over the top, reaction to the impact of social media, particularly Facebook. It was by The Atlantic's technology writer, Adrienne LaFrance, and called  https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/12/facebook-doomsday-machine/617384/.

LaFrance first insists on comparing today's social media platforms (not only Facebook, but YouTube and Google as well) to an apocalyptic doomsday machine called "megadeath." Really? She seems, in my view, to be hell bent on controlling the free flow of information and with controlling these prominent, 21st century internet communication platforms. Hmmm. Who's being more dangerous here? 

She states that, "Facebook has become a borderless nation-state with a population of users as big as China and India combined, governed by secret algorithms." That is an intriguing thought. I am pleased to be a citizen in such a nation-state.

Related, interestingly, Hillary Clinton opined, "talking with Mark Zuckerberg feels like negotiating with the authoritarian head of a foreign state. This is a global company that has huge influence in ways that we are only beginning to understand." I certainly do not doubt that to be the case. There are currently 2.7 billion monthly users of Facebook. As an age 70-pluser, to be able to interact with people around the world about issues of common concern and interest on a daily basis is a gift beyond description.

LaFrance further states, "As the age of reason was, in part, a reaction to the existence of the printing press, we need a new philosophical, moral framework for living with the social web, a new Enlightenment for the information age, a philosophy of personal responsibility." Social media technology has certainly gotten far out in front our ability to think through all it's implications. More useful and appropriate adaption to this media format will require bright, responsible, concerned individuals involved with the technology, not shunning it and wanting to eliminate it.

Reason and responsibility will prevail, as it has over the centuries, as we have moved from one medium of communication to another, as long as reasonable, responsible people stay engaged. No doubt we need bright people to build alternatives to Facebook and other current social media platforms and to improve those which exist. What we don't need is a politburo of technology, self-annotated guardians of proper culture as they interpret it, dictating and censuring information and communication methods and formats.