Blumethal's regulation theatrics towards Facebook mean nothing

Blumethal's regulation theatrics towards Facebook mean nothing
AP Photo/Nick Wass

Connecticut U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal sees Facebook’s welcoming of potential regulation as some sort of decoy.

“What we are hearing from Facebook is platitudes and bromides,” Blumenthal told CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday while vowing the social media site needed accountability. “When it says it wants regulation, at the same time it is fighting that regulation tooth and nail, day and night, with armies of lawyers, millions of dollars in lobbying. And so, I must say, Facebook saying it wants regulation is the height of disingenuousness.“

The Democrat’s desperate yearning for government involvement in Facebook falls along the usual (and tiresome, yet effective) “for the children” approach. Since bureaucratic dictate solves all problems (note sarcasm).

“What we are seeing here is a building drumbeat for accountability.” Blumenthal boasted during his CNN appearance. “A movement for reform that will require disclosure of the powerful algorithms that drive destructive content to children and others, the hate speech in foreign countries, but also the anger and depression that is amplified by those algorithms as it leads children down rabbit holes.”

Spare me the theatrics, Senator.

Facebook’s desire for regulation remains similar to any other established business fearing the government’s heavy-handed involvement. Survival. Mark Zuckerberg’s brain trust knows cooperation and appeasement with Washington, DC keeps Facebook or whatever it’s going to rename itself in the upper echelon of social media websites. Why else would they suddenly accept regulation despite doing what they can to protect themselves? After all, who else understands social media and tech better than those who already influence the industry.

As for those on the right and left who dream regulation or forced break up suddenly fixes every ill with social media. Give me a break. The federal government’s trust-busting abilities are as effective as its skills in the wars on drugs, poverty, and terrorism.

The federal government separated Standard Oil into 34 different companies and American Tobacco Company into four in 1911 (five if you count its divestment of British American Tobacco). The major Standard Oil spinoffs are now ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Marathon. Three American Tobacco spinoffs later recombined with British American Tobacco while the fourth is owned by Vector. The monopoly ban hammer fell on AT&T in 1984, parsing it into the seven Baby Bells. Those seven are now three: AT&T, Verizon, and Lumen.

See the problem? Government attempts a fix with trust-busting yet sees it backfire when the smaller ones end up recombining. There’s no stopping the power of the mostly free market when the government keeps handing out contracts/special tax breaks/bailouts to what’s left. A truly free market where every company needs to rely on innovation and better products to garner customers remains the only solution in the grand scheme of things. Facebook, Twitter, and Google stay on top because they’ve gotten help from the government with either contracts or special tax breaks propping them up while competitors barely scrape by or change their model for a niche audience. See MySpace, which somehow still exists.

Put it in 30-inch headlines: Government Regulation Won’t Work And Never Has.

As for Blumenthal’s other desire for Mark Zuckerberg to appear in Congress for testimony. The only thing that accomplishes is soundbites for his senatorial buddies so they can go back to their constituents and say, “Look! We’re doing something!!” Which may be what he’s looking for in the grand scheme of things. Not exactly inspiring of confidence in the long run except maybe in keeping the status quo in place.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on March 24, 2023