Imagine a different outcome where several options mixing self-regulation by companies like Facebook and informed regulation by federal and state governments were analyzed, debated and prepared for a vote. Imagine, too, that such bipartisan insight came directly from a body under congressional control, rather than lobbying firms, advocacy groups and think tanks, which often peddle tendentious recommendations.
It shouldn’t require a huge stretch of imagination because the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, which helped members understand the scientific and technological dimensions of policy options, was a reality in Washington for decades.
I know, because it’s where I had my first sample of public service. In 1980, I was a physicist doing postdoctoral research. I had no policy background or experience, but senior nuclear physicists of the Manhattan Project era asked me to go to Washington for one year to offer OTA technical analysis on a burning issue of the time: how to keep the Soviets from tracking and destroying the new American MX 10-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile.