The superb investigative reporting on Facebook in the New York Times is sobering and must be seen as a wake-up call for the United States and the larger world.
It paints a picture, in great detail, of a corporate culture run amok in service of its own standing, wealth and power. We have had a sense of this for a while, but the stakes now seem even higher. This is clearly a bi-partisan problem, one that will require political will and sustained civic action in order to address it with any hope of improvement.
I say all this while recognizing the power that Facebook has afforded me during an unlikely chapter in my career. I am proud of the community we have built here, and of all of you who have made it possible. I do think there is an important place for social media but it cannot occupy its current form. Not by a long shot. And it’s not just Facebook. We see the worrisome aggregated power in other tech giants like Amazon and Google.
I am not an expert in this realm. I don’t pretend to have any specific policy answers. But I do know that we can try to invoke the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt and the other trustbusters who tackled the powerful monopolies of ages past in the service of justice, fairness, and freedom. Obviously, tools and solutions will have to be tailored for our age, but that is a challenge worthy of our energy.
That these technology companies provide valuable services is undeniable. That is what makes their regulation all the more necessary. There was a feeling once that a wide-open digital economy would create all sorts of competition. Instead, we have seen unprecedented consolidation. We become more reliant and consequently more vulnerable to the whims of those who are free to operate with little oversight and with a high degree of impunity.
I know many have quit Facebook. I am not at that point now, because I still believe I can use it as a source for important communication. But I understand the impulse and I am watching. In the end, I do not believe that any company, like any president, is bigger than the country, let alone the world. The people can make a difference, and perhaps a new wind on Capitol Hill will blow away the smokescreen these companies have thrown in the face of a long-overdue march towards accountability.