When Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the US Congress this spring he insisted he was not running a media company. But it is getting easier to say why he does. Facebook, the site Mr Zuckerberg founded almost 15 years ago, hosts and produces content. It sells advertising against content. It employs thousands of moderators who help patrol the content it “surfaces”. Two months after he gave his testimony Facebook, without irony, announced plans to launch news shows on its video portal. Its database of privately shared information and personal connections has been used to destabilise democracy. Mr Zuckerberg ought to be held accountable for running a media company.
The billionaire will resist this. His no-show at the House of Commons this week was a snub to representatives from nine parliaments. It is part of a deliberate defensive strategy to delay, deny and deflect criticism. This will only make the regulatory backlash bigger. History shows that political power can be brutally enforced over an influential private enterprise when it has compromised morality for the sake for profit. Facebook might be able to brush off allegations it is too addictive. But it cannot dismiss so easily the charge that it is bad for democracy. The company is long overdue a regulatory reckoning. [Continue reading…]