Big Tech Con: Answers to any reasons social media is bad

Small companies don’t have the resources to provide needed protections

Tyler Cohen, June 13, 2019, Slate, Breaking Up Facebook Would Be a Big Mistake,, This essay is adapted from the recent book Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero, published by St. Martin’s Press.
Advocates of splitting up the big tech companies have a utopian vision of what will replace them. Whether you like it or not, we now live in a world where every possible idea (and video) will be put out there in some fashion or another. Don’t confuse your discomfort with reality with your assessment of big tech companies as individual agents. We’re probably better off having major, well-capitalized companies as guardians and gatekeepers of online channels, however imperfect their records, as the relevant alternatives would probably be less able to fend off abuse of their platforms and thus we would all fare worse. Imagine, for instance, that instead of the current Facebook we had seven smaller companies all performing comparable social networking services, perhaps with some form of interconnectability or data portability. The negative sides of social media, which are indeed real, probably would be worse and harder to control. It is unlikely that such a setting would result in greater consumer privacy and protection. Instead, we would have more weakly capitalized entities, with less talent on staff and weaker A.I. technologies to take down objectionable material. Probably some of those companies would be more tolerant of irresponsible user behavior as a competitive lure. Fake accounts would proliferate, and social networking sites such as 4chan—often a cesspool of racism and rhetoric that goes beyond the merely offensive—would comprise a larger and more central part of the market. As for privacy, these smaller Facebook replacements would be more susceptible to hacks, foreign surveillance and infiltration, and external manipulation—the real dangers to our privacy and well-being. A more modest plan to split up Facebook might just hive off WhatsApp and Instagram, the company’s two most successful acquisitions, leaving “Facebook the page/service” more or less intact. But that won’t work, either. For one thing, it wouldn’t address most of the actual current criticisms of Facebook, which typically revolve around the Facebook page. If we had maintained an independent Instagram, current social media dilemmas wouldn’t be any less acute. Facebook has actually upgraded those services and kept them uncluttered, with the revenue-earning burden placed mainly on the Facebook page itself.

Splitting makes protecting safety more difficult


Instagram boss Adam Mosseri thinks that’s a bad idea. Speaking at the Code Conference, Mosseri said that breaking off Instagram from Facebook would mean more bad content on the platform as it would cut off Instagram from some of the content policing that happens thanks to Facebook’s integration. While agreeing that splitting Instagram from Facebook would make his life easier, Mosseri said it would still be a terrible idea. Breaking off from Facebook would make Instagram less safer says its head Adam Mosseri Representational Image. “If you’re trying to solve election integrity, if you’re trying to approach content issues like hate speech, and you split us off, it would just make it exponentially more difficult — particularly for us at Instagram — to keep us safe,” said Mosseri. He went on to justify it by saying that more people at Facebook work on integrity issues than at Instagram. And breaking Instagram could mean losing access to that talent pool, thereby making Instagram vulnerable. Calls for the breakup of Facebook are picking steam for a while now, as according to Warren and Hughes, Facebook holds enormous power with its billion-plus user base and needs to be kept in check. According to Warren, that can be done by breaking up Facebook. Hughes, on the other hand, believes Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp should be nullified so that there is a lot more competition in the social media space. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke on the matter last month. According to Sandberg, breaking up big tech firms in the US would not solve the ‘underlying issues’ facing this sector. “While people are concerned with the size and power of tech companies, there’s also a concern in the United States with the size and power of Chinese companies, and the realisation that those companies are not going to be broken up,” she said. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also responded to the calls for break up of Facebook saying the exact same lines Mosseri did. Zuckerberg argued that breaking up the social network will only make policing harmful content, such as hate speech and violence, more difficult for the company. “The amount of our budget that goes toward our safety systems is greater than Twitter’s whole revenue this year,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re able to do things that I think are just not possible for other folks to do.”