Regulate Facebook? Sure, but good luck in ridding the internet of bad content

This is a big week for the prospect of meaningful regulation of social media in the US. The testimony of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has raised hopes of legislative reform for Facebook. But in the drive for government action, are reformers forgetting how much personalisation has change political communication? We’re in a different world now.

The tone of caution on this podcast should not be misread as the techno-libertarian argument against regulation (something like: “free speech!” therefore all regulation is pointless).

Rather, it’s a reminder that even if large tech platforms are brought to heel, some issues won’t magically go away. In fact, those new issues around how we experience information are the new environment we confront today.

Disinformation research: a critique 

This short podcast is not so much a criticism of disinformation research but rather a critique of the expectations around it  – or possibly the unexamined expectations around it.

I refer to these three articles.

1) https://www.npr.org/2021/08/04/1024791053/facebook-boots-nyu-disinformation-researchers-off-its-platform-and-critics-cry-f

2) https://harpers.org/archive/2021/09/bad-news-selling-the-story-of-disinformation/

3) https://www.niemanlab.org/reading/facebook-sent-flawed-data-to-misinformation-researchers/

Music by Lesfm from Pixabay/ Image

Publicity power in space race

For all of the technological marvel of SpaceX, the public’s awareness of the company helps it power ahead.

Elon Musk has nearly 60 million followers, thanks to both the wonder of his vertical-landing, reusable rockets, and the extensive catalogue of must-see fireballs shared on social media.

Contrast that to Jeff Bezos, who is richer and whose company, Blue Origin, predates SpaceX. Blue Origin achieved vertical-landing before SpaceX, too. Alas, Bezos commands a mere 2.5 million followers on Twitter.

And so, perhaps, he is learning how the current space race is a bit of a popular mobilization effort. Despite his considerable achievement and investment, Musk stands, in the public’s mind, as the primary space pioneer.

That could explain Bezos’ decision to take the battle to participate in the NASA contract to build a lunar lander public. 

Bezos has offered to waive up to $US2 billion in NASA contract fees to remain involved in the project.

Somewhat surprisingly, he did this by appealing to the public through an open letter on the Blue Origin site.

“Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come.”

Full letter here.

The take-away from the PRC trolling of Australia on Twitter

The takeaway is this:  “Nations that can’t effectively tell their own story risk having it told by another country” – that’s a conclusion by Jed Willard, global engagement director at Harvard’s FDR Foundation.

Australia’s story is not about one specific unfavourable news item related to alleged war crimes but about the much bigger, recurring themes of the rule of law, sovereignty, and trade fairness. These are the focal points of Australia’s story in regard to the Chinese Communist Party.

More detail in my story.

A little more background on the trolling, here.