Facebook and the corruption of power
Not a day goes by when I’m not reminded of Lord Acton, who wrote:
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.
In case you haven’t heard, on October 11 Facebook deleted hundreds of politically-oriented alternative media pages. And, there appears to have been coordination with Twitter, suggesting that entities within the government were calling the shots. Youtube’s been engaging in similar behavior for years.
I’m not sure what to make of this. I believe the founders of Youtube had idealistic intentions. I believe the founders of Google, which once had the motto “Don’t be evil” and eventually bought Youtube, also started with idealistic intentions. Same for Twitter. I’m not sure about Facebook, but I think they all envisioned platforms of completely free expression. I don’t think any of them imagined cracking down on any non-porn content that violated no copyrights.
But as they became the dominant social media platforms, they became powerful. And powerful corporations, sooner or later, become willing or unwilling collaborators with the most powerful entity of them all: the United States government.
If Facebook, Twitter, and Google curried favor with the federal government in order to gain influence in Capitol corridors, they were already corrupt. If, however, they were bullied or blackmailed by the Deep State into censoring anti-Establishment views, then they’ve been “corrupted” in the sense of being compromised by government authority.
Would you be surprised if Facebook’s security breach of a couple of weeks ago was committed by hackers paid by your tax dollars? Was Facebook told by agents of the federal government, “Play ball or we’ll ruin you?” I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
But now we must ask, what’s next? There are other social media platforms, and they promise to respect freedom of expression. In other words, they have idealist goals. Will one or two of them eventually overtake Facebook and Twitter? What then? Won’t they be corrupted as well?
And how can fledgling rivals beat Big Social Media? What if I set up a platform that announced, “All are welcome. No censorship.” My intention would be to create a safe space for organizations like The Free Thought Project and The Anti-Media, but that’s not how it will be portrayed. Because my tolerance wouldn’t draw lines, almost immediately there will be news stories with headlines like, “New social media platform embraces conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis.” And so if you set up an account and invite your Facebook friends to join, their reaction will be, “Why would you want to associate with them?”
Facebook and the other Big Social Media, with or without the involvement of the government, have the market leverage, and they are either corrupt or have been corrupted. I suspect any alternative social networks will only serve niches. It’s a question of attracting enough sign-ups. Even then, I wouldn’t be surprised if advertisers will be scared away.
These are dark times.