Heated, biased revamps of Big Tech won’t silence the echo chambers
In “Move fast and break things” (Editorial, Jan. 11), the Globe offers a knee-jerk reaction to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol and suggests a solution that could be summarized as: Break up Big Tech because we don’t like the messages they carry, and create a new entitlement program. Fund a nebulous new nonprofit social media platform that will somehow overcome society’s problems.
Recreating something like National Public Radio in the social media space is the wrong model, with all of NPR’s clear political bias. Breaking up tech sounds nice and feels good, and would be admirable, if it also curtailed unrestricted cancel-culture speech and violence-encouraging antifa protest speech on the left as well. But it won’t. Unwinding Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms would only create more, separate echo chambers from which people get their “curated” news. Allowing “mission-driven platforms” to somehow emerge would lead to more chambers, not more open dialogue.
Two problems: First, Facebook and its ilk have amassed too much power through control of our personal data without effective antitrust oversight relevant to the 21st century, and second, society has increasingly sought out distinct, fundamentally opposed echo chambers as its source of “news.”
Congress can address the first problem but not with politically biased, heat-of-the-moment solutions. It needs all the creativity and invention that has enabled Big Tech in the first place, adapting to new structures and communications platforms, and a keen appreciation of the second problem, including the humble realization of how difficult it will be to solve.
Indeed, “the fate of democracy and the safety of the public and public officials should not hinge on one Harvard dropout’s feelings.” Nor should it hinge on the Globe’s own editorial partisan peeves.
It’s all in how you frame it
In “Speech has consequences” (Opinion, Jan. 12), Edward F. Davis III mentions that social media platforms’ recent bans of President Trump “were met with cries of censorship and big-corporation totalitarianism.” These media platforms should frame their bans in terms that many right-wingers can understand and agree with. They should merely state that it is against their religious beliefs to allow messaging that contains lies, hate speech, or implied or explicit threats of violence.