by Hugh Stephens — 10 May 2018
It would be the ultimate under-statement to say that recent events concerning the appalling breaches of privacy permitted and indeed orchestrated by Facebook have raised public awareness to new heights over what happens when internet intermediaries are allowed to do just about whatever they want. Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s apologies about “mistakes” and pledges do better in future, the genie is out of the bottle. Even Zuckerberg had to admit that there is a place for regulation.
“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”
Wow, that is quite a list of transgressions. But my purpose is not to beat up on Facebook, who happen to be the internet whipping boy of the moment. It is to look at the broader issue of when enough is enough when it comes to the kind of “permissionless innovation” and avoidance of regulation that the Silicon Valley platforms have foisted on us all in the name of progress.
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have actually done a service to the proponents of reasonable internet regulation. Through Facebook’s repeated failure to police itself and live up to its promises, it has poured oil on a smouldering fire, causing it to catch flame. As the twenty-year run of permissionless innovation and avoidance of regulation, including respect for copyright, comes to an end, the internet giants who have filled the space between the creators of content and consumers are finally facing a new reality. That reality will require a much greater degree of respect for other stakeholders, including creators, consumers and regulators. It’s high time this happened.