Social Media as Private Companies Or Public Utilities

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  1. GA Anderson profile image87
    GA Andersonposted 3 years ago

    This is a tricky one for me. I am a firm Capitalist. I believe in private companies' rights.

    But, like our nationally regulated gas, power, and light utilities, has the internet and social media platforms reached utility status?

    I think it can be reasonably argued that internet access has become as fundamentally a utility as access to electric power. And as much as it pains me, I think it may be time for internet access to be regulated like a utility.

    Following that thought is the power of social media platforms. This one is much more slippery and hard to define, but, at a minimum, should our social media platforms, now, at least, face the same legal and regulatory requirements of publishers, (like newspapers, et al.), instead of the free ride from regulation that they get as mere public platforms?

    Public platforms don't censor, (beyond legally prohibited content), but it is obvious that the current 'main' social media platforms do just that. So should they lose their "platform" protections and be subject to "publisher" regulations?


    1. Credence2 profile image78
      Credence2posted 3 years agoin reply to this

      I disagree with the idea of the Internet as a utility, just as when we were discussing the Obamacare court case, you were generally against the idea of imposing taxes and penalties on the presumption that the requirement for healthcare would be inevitable and universal and is a different animal, then, say, car insurance. You are not compelled to own a car or use public roads, the same can be said about the Internet.

      1. wilderness profile image94
        wildernessposted 3 years agoin reply to this

        I dunno, Cred.  Ten years ago I would have agreed, just as I would that cell phones are not a requirement for life in the US.  But today...I'm slowly changing my mind.  When I see schools districts giving computers to every child, when I see that companies require an online job app., it does appear more and more that internet is getting to be a fact of life.

        But certain businesses operating on the 'net?  Are they "utilities" as well?  Well, when I went on unemployment years ago I was required to sign up with G+ as a condition for unemployment, along with LinkedIn.  I think this question deserves more than an automatic "no" just because we old fuddy duddies don't use it as younger people do.

        1. Credence2 profile image78
          Credence2posted 3 years agoin reply to this

          I hear you, Wilderness. But the internet is so much more than just social media outlets, it is the compendium of all human knowledge and that is something that everyone should have access to without restraint.

          Me and the missus had trouble with Facebook because of its prying and the nosy nature of its very platform, so we got rid of it and all of its tentacles.

          I think that the the idea that employers require that one signs up with either Google or LinkedIn is a form of pre-employment discrimation. They have no more right to request this prying into my affairs as to insist to know who I vote for.

          It is just another aspect of potential exploitation by employers that should be curbed.

      2. GA Anderson profile image87
        GA Andersonposted 3 years agoin reply to this

        With the caveat that I did say "This is a tricky one for me." I would ask that you consider how our society has become dependant on access to the internet.

        Consider current times; what is the position of families with school kids that don't have access to the internet for online schooling? Do they need access as much as they need electricity?

        Also consider that, in my area, Comcast is the sole cable internet provider, and they charge $70 to $99 for internet access, but also offer a $9.98 price for low-income families with kids. Why would they do that if access wasn't considered an essential service?

        I don't see this thought as analogous to the ACA issue. Also, you may be compelled to buy car insurance if you want to drive a car, but I don't think that is analogous either. In today's world aren't you "compelled" to buy internet service if you want your kids to get an education? (as a side note; every homeschooling option I have looked at also requires internet access for their homeschooling programs)


        1. Credence2 profile image78
          Credence2posted 3 years agoin reply to this


          Like I mentioned to Wilderness, the Internet is more than just social media.

          I consider "Social Media" as just one of many components of what the internet is.

          You can choose to access social media or not and still avail yourself of the internet.

          I see your point about internet access being fundamental, but is involvement in social media the equivalent of that?

    2. crankalicious profile image87
      crankaliciousposted 3 years agoin reply to this

      I don't have an answer for you yet. There are a couple of concepts in internet advertising: push and pull.

      Pull is when the user goes and finds the content.
      Push is when the content finds the user.

      That's my basic understanding of those terms. I think there is no doubt that our society has become more of a push society and the ramifications of that are, in my estimation, not good.

      I would say that a static page on the internet should not be regulated as long as the consumer must seek it out. However, I would say that something that comes to you based on an algorithm, should be regulated. This would cover a lot of stuff on Facebook that serves up information based on your behavior.

      How's that?

      1. wilderness profile image94
        wildernessposted 3 years agoin reply to this

        A reasonable compromise.  I could perhaps go with that, depending on just how that "seeking out" is accomplished and whether search algorithms are also censored or pointed in one direction.

        1. crankalicious profile image87
          crankaliciousposted 3 years agoin reply to this

          It's really no different than a telephone solicitation or junk mail. At the very least, we should have the option to stop people from sending them to us. So, on Facebook, for example, have an option to "turn off" all unsolicited push advertising.

          However, it could go further. Since these are targeted ads, we could also turn on and off and option, particularly political ads, to have Facebook (or whomever) provide us with additional links to verify the truth of what is being pushed to us.

          Lots of options. And those who send out consistently false information could be banned.

          1. profile image0
            savvydatingposted 3 years agoin reply to this

            To be clear, are you saying the user would determine which information is false depending upon which links Facebook or even Twitter chooses to provide for those who wish to "verify the truth?"

          2. wilderness profile image94
            wildernessposted 3 years agoin reply to this

            The biggest problem, perhaps, is those ads are what is funding these sites.  Take away their profit and you will take away the site.

            1. crankalicious profile image87
              crankaliciousposted 3 years agoin reply to this

              Well, exactly! Their profits increase unabated. Should government have a role in restricting those profits to protect the public against misinformation and/or damaging information and who is going to determine what is misinformation and what is damaging?

              Do you own an Alexa? It's pretty clear to me that sometimes if you talk about a certain thing at home, you'll see an advertisement for that thing when you log into Facebook. Should the government regulate such things?

              1. wilderness profile image94
                wildernessposted 3 years agoin reply to this

                No, government has no role in restricting profits.  Certainly it has none in banning lying ads, given that every politician on the Hill does the same thing.  But that isn't quite what I said (profits would fall); I said they would disappear, at least to the point that the business will fail.

                You also have a tremendous, impossible, job of determining what is "misinformation" and what is not - again, given the lies from politicians, who will be judge?  Certainly not those same politicians!

                No, I don't own an Alexa, but I DO see ads on what I've searched for.  Presumably from Google...but I don't use Google - I use Bing.

      2. GA Anderson profile image87
        GA Andersonposted 3 years agoin reply to this

        That was fine. But, it misses my point. Static or dynamic pages, advertizing vs. no advertising, and business' use of the internet wasn't part of my point. I was simply pondering that for whatever reason; social media, product or service purchasing, or even just general information, the internet has become an essential part of our society.

        As mentioned to Credence2, I think the best example is today's, (during this pandemic crisis), situation. Internet access is absolutely essential to the education of our kids. If one doesn't have internet access, their kids can't participate in the current education system. And, also as mentioned, all, (that I have checked out), homeschooling options also require internet access.

        As one of us mentioned, this may be no-big-deal for us old fogies, but it is a really big deal for families with school-age kids.

        If electricity is a utility for our homes, and gas is a utility for our cooking and heating, how can internet access not be a utility for the future of our kids?

        But don't misunderstand my purpose. I am only advocating a classification, not governmental control—beyond equitable access, just like gas and electricity.


  2. Readmikenow profile image93
    Readmikenowposted 3 years ago

    I wonder how many people know that social media platforms are exempt from liability lawsuits?  They are free from them and I think this exemption should be removed immediately.  When they begin to act like a publisher and determining which stories do or do not get viewed, they are no longer a "public" platform.  I think they should now face lawsuits just like the New York Times, NBC, and all other media outlets.

    "The petition asked the FCC to limit protections for social media companies under Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields them from liability for content posted by their users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts." … 6/586754.h


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