This article was written well ahead of scheduled publishing in order to accommodate my travel plans.
I am writing this on October 26th. Normally I am concerned about writing an article this far in advance of publishing. In this case I’m certain the problem I want to explore today will still exist on November 4th. The problem has a name and it is Facebook.
I have a newspaper publisher friend who loves to call Facebook “Fraudbook”. Unfortunately, Gary is damn accurate on that one. Originally Facebook was developed to rate the faces of Harvard coeds by a few guys in their dorm room who were challenged with attracting female attention (I’m being polite to protect my PG rating). Soon it became a good way to share pictures of kids and amateur versions of David Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks videos. To bad it didn’t stay there. It became the late 20th and early 21st century versions of boring your guests with your family vacation movies.
Supposedly it was also a great way to keep in touch with your old high school classmates. Why anyone is interested in that is beyond me. But then again, I contend that most Americans have never really left high school which is both sad and a major problem in America. (I left it in the 1960s and three years was too long.)
Facebook has become a forum for people to post misinformation that has harmed and continues to harm our country. People trust their Facebook friends but simultaneously mistrust journalists with editors, fact checkers and Pulitzer Prizes. Can you square that circle?
Facebook was/is a major component in Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, 1/6 and the anti-vaccine movement just to name a few. Let’s see, that means it helped elect a corrupt president, an attempt to overthrow American government and aided in the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans. And that’s only three examples.
I must disclose my personal involvement with Facebook. I’m sure I’m listed among their billions of users. About a decade ago I signed up because I was sort of forced into it. I have never posted, read or followed anything on it and have not used my account since that night. In fact, I have no idea how to nor desire to do it. The moral of that story is that when you hear a Facebook number touting its users, discount it.
There are bigger threats to America like domestic terrorists, most Republican office holders, Donald Trump, the current Supreme Court majority and several diseases but Facebook certainly makes the top ten and many of the prior listed use it. The optimal solution is to simply kill it. We have allowed the monster to grow too large and that is not going to happen. In fact, Facebook has already spawned a few offshoots.
Breaking it up won’t work either. The whole idea of a social media platform is that every user can communicate on that same platform. Breakup just doesn’t fit the definition.
What can and must be done is to control it much like we control dangerous animals in a zoo or dangerous people in a prison. In this case we cannot put Facebook in a cage but we can constrain abuses with regulation. Facebook must be treated like what it is – a commercial communication entity. That is far from perfect just as it is with newspapers, radio and television stations along with periodicals, but it is a start.
What some are calling the “Facebook Papers” is revealing that the company valued profits over truth. If something generated more usage it got a high placement regardless of whether it was true or not. Facebook’s whole game is chasing clicks.
Many will cite First Amendment protections of free speech. You have a right to communicate most anything you want to in America but it is still constrained by things like liable and slander. You also don’t have a right to falsely yell “Fire” in a crowded movie theater.
Freedom comes with responsibility and it seems like Facebook chose to ignore the responsibility part. It is time that it and the American people face reality!
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