Following "The Social Dilemma", what types of regulations for tech companies?

Baptiste N
20 replies
Just watched The Social Dilemma. They told me it was good. Yet, I am fascinated. Even though they highlighted many parts of the dilemma, I am not convinced with what they proposed as regulation levers. No offense though. I know it is hard to make it fit in a 90-minutes movie. It feels like the history is repeating itself. Let's take the example of the Dutch East India Company, a.k.a. VOC. Throughout the 17th century, this private company got so big that they colonized Indonesia for two centuries. Why? Because they were pursuing their business model's interests. Indeed, capitalism was just born and society wasn't aware of its limits yet. They didn't know it could destabilize a whole society. When people figured it wasn't normal that a private company could control a whole country, they started to regulate. Turned out the VOC was nationalized. It didn't kill the problem right away. Yet, nowadays a private company cannot control a physical territory. And it might be for the best! So, what happens with 21st-century tech companies? They don't control territories with physical frontiers. But they do control people within these zones. Time has passed. Things are more complicated and diversified than before. Nationalizing might not be the solution. A radical change in their business model is not conceivable either. As said in the film, some fiscal regulations such as taxes on data collection and processing could work. Society agrees it is time for regulation. But, what can they be?

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Arc Co-Founder and CEO
I think it is hard politically to understand where the regulation would begin because the legal teams on the larger companies would just say: "we are just good at our business, why are you interfering?" I think also because consumer habits have been so widely adopted (in the examples above it is probably safe to say there is no historical example that would have the market penetration the social media giants have had). I think, and this is certainly the route I am taking, it is correct to understand the social media world as an ecosystem of connection. And currently that ecosystem is unhealthy. There might be ways to control/regulate it that I don't see. But I personally think that if we can introduce a component to the ecosystem that balances the rest, we might be able to have our cake and eat it too. For instance the product I work on was made as a Spotify of online information (quality information easily found). I think if we work hard and well, we can co-exist with the existing platforms the same way Spotify co-exists with the plenty of ways to download music for free. I would like to believe that other services that tackle core points of the social media ecosystem can co-exist with the existing ones, but the new services will have a thoughtful approach to balancing the existing effects of large companies. Maybe the best analogy I can think of is the answer I have found to losing weight is to not start with rigorous diet but introduce exercise, specifically exercise I enjoy. And the other habits needed usually follow. I can then enjoy the fast-food when I decide to partake.
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Cofounder @Vidjet.io
@jeff_han1 I agree with understanding social medias as an ecosystem of connections. I do also think that this world cannot radically be changed. It might be true that adding new elements/components to it can "balance" it better than it currently is.
Product Analyst, Designer, and Manager
The Medium is the Message Regulations aren't the solution to this problem. The Medium in this case is Web2.0 The Message in this case is the "Social Dilemma" The only way to solve this problem is to solve the problems of Web2.0 not the companies. This isn't a problem with business practices, it's simply the underlying technology. As Uncle Chan from Jackie Chan Adventures always say "Magic must defeat magic!!!" I say: "Technology must fix Technology" not laws/policies or anything else. Web3.0 will fix the problems of Web2.0, period.
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Cofounder @Vidjet.io
@tosfan4ever interesting. Seems like it goes deeper than I imagined. Do you have any good content to share about Web3.0?
Product Analyst, Designer, and Manager
@baptiste_ncls yep, technology must fix technology because that's how it has always been, that's how it always will be. Web3.0 can be Googled, there are a ton of good resources. Here's one such good article on it: https://medium.com/keyko/the-lon... I work for them part-time as a product designer these days.
Cofounder @Vidjet.io
@tosfan4ever Interesting, thanks!
Product Analyst, Designer, and Manager
@baptiste_ncls Welcome, you need to always look at the core/root/foundational forces at work in this world, not just what is at the surface-level. This is how you can solve problems most effectively and efficiently. It's at the heart of issues that matter the most.
Cofounder @Vidjet.io
@tosfan4ever I agree 100%. I actually love this expression: "The problem has to be taken by the roots".
Founder, Developer at Crucial Human
Andrew Yang, who ran for president this year, has been a strong proponent for the idea that companies should be paying us for use of our data. He started the Data Dividend Project ( https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/...). I think this is the root of the issue. As they mentioned in the film, if it's free, you are the product. I think social media companies will and should begin to offer paid subscriptions that removes ads and provides limited use of our data (no selling to 3rd parties).
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Cofounder @Vidjet.io
@eddieaich I do think the same. It appears to me like the most clever solution. However, it raises many questions. Example: if Facebook has 8% of French users, to whom should it pay taxes? French gov? USA gov? Both?
Skull Savvy's here, who love to help you
very informative
Cofounder @Vidjet.io
I did an interview with Aza Raskin, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, about the documentary and it is worth a listen to what he has to say. (He and Tristan Harris, who is featured in The Social Dilemma, are co-founders of the CHT.) Pretty interesting stuff. I work for KIRO Radio in Seattle: https://mynorthwest.com/category...
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Cofounder @Vidjet.io
@mike_lewis5 awesome. I'll listen to it later today! Thanks for this.
Politicians and bureaucrats should be the last people putting restrictions and control on technology. They honestly have no clue about what's going on and how to handle it, they just want the control. People are willingly purchasing a device and downloading apps to it. If somehow the apps are "bad for you" then it's great that it's debated openly and docs being made about it. Education is key. But it's like eating junk food or smoking cigarettes constantly and blaming Wendy's and Lucky Strike for your bad health. At some point, personal responsibility should be in focus and not asking the government to regulate these companies just because you can't control your diet.
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Founder, Developer at Crucial Human
@fernikolic1 Regulations don't always mean control. For example, it used to be legal to market cigarettes to minors. I think there is room for some form of regulation on data use. But you're right, politicians are decades behind when in comes to technology. When we have leaders who do understand, meaningful and sensible regulations will be possible.
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Cofounder @Vidjet.io
@fernikolic1 I like the arguments about education and personal responsibility. About politics and laws, your comment seems to be "linked" to @tosfan4ever one.
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Working on Faden - www.faden.cloud
The question is whether policies can get to the heart of the issue. They can be quite effective when there are apparent external effects in otherwise free markets (i.e., when you benefit from your actions but others suffer - like with pollution from production), but this is different. Social networks exploit our very nature to feel social. And they do it in a way that seems quite reasonable on first look (comment & "like"). To even start working out policies, we first need to get to the root of the issues. One of the key issues is the misalignment of interest. The typical user of a social network wants social connection. This, by itself, is ok. The problem is created by other actors (states, organizations, individuals). Business (i.e., advertising): Most other actors want to generate business and are willing to pay the network for this goal. This determines the way the network operates, i.e., selling attention to generate advertising revenue. The more attention, the more the network earns. This generates a weird conflict of interest. And this is also where we should probably focus our attention when it comes to policies. Financial auditing companies are usually prohibited from engaging in other contracts with a client. Maybe it could be prohibited to sell advertising on social platforms, forcing us all to pay a bit for the services we use. This might hurt a bit but would benefit everyone in the long run. The problem is that you would also need to "ban" all services in your country which do not comply. It's certainly possible. The EU GDPR (albeit with a different angle, namely, privacy) showed that things can change. Pushing agendas: In addition to the above, certain actors want to push a certain agenda: If the agenda is perceived as "beneficial" (e.g., climate change, reducing inequality), we should probably let them. But what if it's not (e.g., manipulating elections)? How can we tell? How can we even decide what is what, i.e., where do we draw the line)? Of course, we could all just decide to change. Use platforms that choose a different mode of operations. Maybe we can even create a technology that is designed to circumvent the issue (by having rules built into its design). Blockchain is still flawed (e.g., when one group or individual controls more than 50% of the mining nodes), but has certainly shown that there are ways how we can build systems that can govern certain aspects by themselves. I would be curious what others think about this. I think this topic is one of the big ones we need to solve (because unless we "fix" ourselves, we have little chance to fix the bigger picture).
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Cofounder @Vidjet.io
@christianheine loved the argument about business. I recently read about hybrid business models. => Watch/listen to ads to use the service for free, or pay subscription to using without ads. Guess this could be a quick and easy solution to deploy. Also props to your ending sentence "unless we "fix" ourselves, we have little chance to fix the bigger picture". Kinda like it (: