People are taking the wrong lessons from the Facebook Papers. The solution is to flip the power dynamic: give the people themselves the power to choose what they pay attention to.
as a compete novice in the industry with a passion to write words, Substack provided a welcome harbor in the shark infested waters of the media ocean. I didn't know what I didn't know. Substack and its writers have provided the keys to the doors of the prison of the mind.
Sadly, we all know so many people who will complain but never grab the key and free themselves.
They do not realize that their individual freedom is up to them. Nobody else will fight for your freedom if you are unwilling to participate.
Substack opened the door after I unlocked it and I discovered others willing to support that liberation. For any skeptics out there, I am living proof that a person with a dream-goal can achieve an objective without being an expert.
The world has too many experts saying all kinds of expert things. I am just an expert on my life, and I have found that my expertise in that arena resonates with others.
Thank you Substack
Well said. Why I dumped FB 6 yrs ago, rarely go to IG, Telegram is gaining steam and I love reading from my fav writers/researchers on this platform. Thank you!
I'm still waiting for someone to implement spotify for journalism. Subscribing to 15 different papers and 30 different substacks/patreons is not practical. But if I could spend $10-20 a month and just never hit a paywall when I want to read an article? I would do that immediately.
I could not agree more wholeheartedly. This is part of what drew my to Substack in the first place and I have only become more impressed with the platform and more passionate about its model ever since. I will be sharing this article widely.
"But it is the free and open exchange of ideas that allows for effective communication, and it’s also the cornerstone of a free society, which becomes repressive if individuals are muffled, or the flow of information is restricted. The best weapon against misunderstandings, or misinformation, is more communication, more free speech, not silence, and not censorship (or threats of deplatforming)."
From: Communication Insights From Movies
What is proposed in this article does nothing to get rid of the horrendous amount of disinformation spread daily on Facebook and other sites. Disinformation is poison to human society and causes otherwise reasonably sane individuals to take horse de-wormer, rather than a highly effective vaccine. And, this is only one of millions of examples of why Facebook and the rest need to be regulated and fined out of existence if they don't themselves, get rid of the vast hatred and disinformation that is poisoning human society.
The needed change is far more simple. Simply change § 230(c) to have a new subsection (3):
(3) Civil liability not excepted
The provisions of subsection (2) above shall not apply to any actions of any provider or user of an interactive computer service aggregating content of others by means of computational algorithms as defined below.
With a corresponding new definition of "computational algorithms" to reflect the types of practices that are reflected in the Facebook papers, companies would lose the implicit subsidy of § 230 and would have to make rational, economic judgments or face civil liability. Facing the economic realities of their actions through potential liability would rationalize the actions of the providers.
I struggle to follow this reasoning.
> flip the power dynamic: give the people themselves the power to choose what they pay attention to.
Don’t people already have that power? I only pay attention to social media when I choose to. How are people compelled to pay attention to social media?
> The real problem is at the foundation: a business model that sells people’s attention to advertisers, which motivates companies to reward the content that most effectively manipulates people’s emotions.
It seems like this same criticism could be made of broadcast TV in the 20th century. Does the argument that better regulations solves the attention crisis hold up to the TV analogy?
Yes! Exactly this. God bless you, Substack, and please never sell out to the bad guys.
Just stop tracking and surveillance. Yes. Flip control to the user.
“With this kind of model, free content can still exist, but it will be truly free — not masquerading as such while quietly extracting costs in the form of personal data or manipulated behavior.”
Sounds great, but how?
Who’s going to fund the operational costs, forget about shareholder profits, of Google or Facebook-like content if it’s posted and hosted for free and free to view? Are you proposing publicly-funded networks where “free content can still exist”?
The only current model I can think of that may work is the Internet Archive. However, given the difference in size between a relatively small nonprofit like the Internet Archive and behemoths like Google and Facebook, how could you scale an Internet Archive-type model to meet the demand for Google and Facebook-like services? My guess is, first, you would need to impose government-mandated and publicly-subsidized universal internet access, much the same as access to electric and postal services is pretty much universal. And then, a tax would have to be imposed to pay for the universal access.
A publicly-funded and controlled internet might result in something better than the current model, but I think it’s doubtful it’s going to happen any time soon. Commercial radio and television, as well as magazines and newspapers, have always been in the business of selling audiences to advertisers. I suspect they will continue to do so as long as they can.
As commercial broadcasting and print have migrated to the internet, nothing’s changed. The viewer is still the product, not the customer. Unfortunately, the internet is nothing new, it’s the same old same old. As in the past, a small segment of the audience will seek alternative media outlets like the Internet Archive, while everyone else watches the Super Bowl.
The real problem isn't Facebook's foundation, but society's foundation. Facebook is good at manipulating the population, but only because the population is so easily manipulated. American society is controlled by the knowledge of its members, which has been undermined by several generations of malfeasance by the failed education system. Some have managed to overcome that handicap, the rest use Facebook.
I am incredibly grateful for Substack's platform. The awareness you share in this letter -- regarding what drives attention -- is priceless. Changing dominant model/structures has the potential to re-wire how the internet works. It really is such a valuable tool for connection and growth. Let's build it to make our world a better place. Thank you!!!
Thoughtful piece, thank you.
Great piece and valuable questions about the real problem and potential solutions. Thank you for identifying this as a FACEBOOK leak not a whistleblower because that label is abused to give an allure of brave truth telling when true whistleblowers are silenced, smeared and prosecuted not championed by Congress or lionized by corp media.
Back when the online world was the computer bulletin board, forum moderation revolved around the concept of "excessively annoying behavior", which was summarized as follows: don't be excessively annoying and don't be excessively annoyed.
Outside of that rule, the BBS universe was a fairly wide open place for people to express their opinion.
That's the sort of rule we need to get back to.