George Soros wants to break up the social media giants:
The companies claim that they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulation, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open access.
I’d like to see that happen too, without George’s no doubt nuanced idea of “fair and open access”.
On one hand I want to say what’s needed isn’t regulation of social media, but complete deregulation. But the fact is I think if we’re ever to rehabilitate ourselves as a nation, we have to ban pornography, for one, with our own sort of Chinese firewall. As he notes
Chinese IT companies in particular are fully equal to the US platforms. They also enjoy the full support and protection of President Xi Jinping’s regime. China’s government is strong enough to protect its national champions, at least within its borders.
Must be nice!
George doesn’t want the US to have national champions, protected within her borders.
The real problem Soros has is with the connections people are making online–with the amped-up expansion of freedom of association that led to the grassroots phenomenon of Donald Trump’s election.
Social media companies deceive their users by manipulating their attention, directing it towards their own commercial purposes, and deliberately engineering addiction to the services they provide. This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents.
All very true. But this doesn’t explain Trump, which Soros takes for granted to be a catastrophe. Everyone is swimming in the same internet waters, after all.
There is a similarity between internet platforms and gambling companies. Casinos have developed techniques to hook customers to the point that they gamble away all of their money, even money they don’t have.
Something similar – and potentially irreversible – is happening to human attention in our digital age. This is not a matter of mere distraction or addiction; social media companies are actually inducing people to surrender their autonomy.
George has been reading recent criticisms of social media. I like the casino analogy, that we’re basically spending time we don’t have and the most vulnerable–the young, women, the unsophisticated–are most at risk.
And this power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies.
Very true. And George doesn’t like that, because it still allowed for the election of Donald Trump, who he equates with Kim Jong Un at one point. But it’s curious–those few companies pitched in to elect a president, and a very divisive one in Obama, and have opposed Trump not only with their money and political actions but with ideological censorship, and have only helped Trump’s cause to the extent they’ve offered a free and fair–an “open”–environment for people to associate, just as it did for Soros’ well-funded efforts there.
It takes significant effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called the freedom of mind.
As Sargon would say “have you read your Locke, sir? Even?”
Once lost, those who grow up in the digital age may have difficulty regaining it. This would have far-reaching political consequences. People without the freedom of mind can be easily manipulated. This danger does not loom only in the future; it played an important role in the 2016 US presidential election.
The freedom of mind of the mass is the last thing George wants. It’s the last thing any of us wants, really. Though I want the mass to be rehabilitated and weaned off porn and the poz, while George wants them weaned off of nationalism, religion and identity.
Moreover, US law has adopted a strange doctrine that measures harm as an increase in the price paid by customers for services received. But that is almost impossible to prove, given that most giant Internet platforms provide a majority of their services for free. Moreover, the doctrine leaves out of consideration the valuable data that platform companies collect from their users.
Indeed. Information monopolies aren’t a problem because they overcharge for their services, but because they give them away. They’re like the guy in the old joke who thinks he’ll charge zero for his product and make up for the loss on volume, and they kind of do.
No, we pay in other ways and I don’t mean the loss of privacy when they sell our data, but in the loss of spirit, when we indulge their delights, such as they are.
We pay mightily.