Next February 4th is the 15th anniversary of Facebook.
With its properties Whatsapp and Instagram, and together with Twitter, it has become of the last few years by far the most powerful institution in forming peoples’ priorities, opinions and culture.
The appalling lack of national and international regulation is allowing powerful unaccountable entities – from its own shareholder and boards to political action committees, from powerful nation states to small activist or criminal hackers groups – to unduly influence and manipulate the public sphere. The goal is not to combat “fake news” or to promote freedom of speech – which is just one right which is limited and to be balanced with others – but make the public sphere much more democratic.
To promote the latter, new regulations in the US, EU and, best, via international treaty should:
- Require that all social media, with large user bases, to implement radically higher IT transparency and security standards (technical and procedural) through a new international trustworthy continuous certifications and oversight body, such as our proposed Trustless Computing Certification Body, to cover:
- Technologies and processes used for user identification and authentication – to mitigate gaming by powerful entities via bot nets, AI, and troll armies.
- Their most critical subsystems, such as feed generating systems, firmware upgrades, security monitoring, logging systems – to radically mitigate hacking from outsiders and insiders alike.
- Their editorial control systems (automated feeds, etc.) to ensure their publicly auditability and contain complexity – to make social media feeds them inspectable and assurable to a very high degree.
- Introduce new antitrust rules and/or mandatory social media interoperability and data portability, to radically mitigate the concentration of power in one or a few huge too-big-to-regulate companies. Enable users to edit the algorithms governing their social feeds is a user-friendly way.
- Promote, through pre-commercial procurement and R&D programs, the wide availability of affordable ultra-secure personal computing devices – complementary to their current ones – which allow radically-higher levels of user authentication, confidentiality; while enabling legitimate lawful access. These would promote at once a much stronger enactment of civil and political rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly; and radically mitigate the subversion and manipulation of the public sphere by powerful undemocratic and unaccountable entities.
- Provide strong economic incentives for audience-controlled media, whereby a media outlet is democratically controlled and financed by his readers, without any advertising.