It’s time to start regulating Facebook

I am officially out of patience for Facebook and its “hard problems.”

Since the 2016 election, I’ve experienced several iterations of the company’s simpering smoke-and-mirrors show in the United States and Europe. Blue-and-white slide decks tout new transparency features. Company representatives earnestly address audience questions, folding their hands and nodding as if in a therapy session. “I hear your frustration,” they say. “These are hard problems, and we’re committed to solving them.”

It turns out — although I’m not sure anyone is shocked — that the events I’ve attended amount to one small glimpse of a much larger, darker lobbying operation meant to distract from Facebook’s failings and discredit its critics. Among the more shocking details in Wednesday’s New York Times report on the company’s efforts is that its executives not only cajoled lawmakers into avoiding regulation in traditional ways, but they also hired a Republican opposition research firm to disseminate claims that anti-Facebook protesters were paid by George Soros. The company was contributing to the degradation of the information ecosystem while publicly vowing to fight it.