“Suddenly, it becomes all too clear that Google, Facebook, and Twitter might not actually be particularly good for democracy.”

Betrayed by the giants—LibrarianShipwreck

Of course, in keeping with the thriller example, there’s usually a mix in the audience of those who are genuinely caught off guard by the betrayal and those who saw it coming. Alas, betrayal isn’t something that only happens in thrillers. Rather, real people place their trust in a range of other people, institutions, beliefs, and technologies – and when that moment of betrayal occurs it sends them reeling.

To witness the angry face of the betrayed look no further than the exchanges between members of the congressional intelligence committee and the lawyers from Facebook, Twitter, and Google (Alphabet).

Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are more than just businesses – they are the real world manifestations of a powerful ideology. This is a worldview in which Internet connected technology represents the promise of a happier today and a brighter tomorrow.

Suddenly, it becomes all too clear that Google, Facebook, and Twitter might not actually be particularly good for democracy. That they might be more interested in pecuniary values than social ones. And that they might have invested more resources in detecting nipples than in detecting nefarious bots. These companies have grown massively in their short lifespans, they have largely escaped oversight and regulation and it seems that one of the explanations of that is because many of those tasked with regulating them thought these companies were basically “on the right side.” And it not only members of Congress who feel as though their trust has been violated: a user can make peace with Facebook Reactions or a 280 character limit, but what are they to do when that platform has been caught happily disseminating divisive propaganda for a few rubles?

“Put simply: Is Facebook too big to work?”

Does Facebook Even Know How to Control Facebook? Under intense congressional scrutiny, the social giant will have to answer questions about whether it can rein in its own product.—Alexis C Madrigal, The Atlantic

There was so much chaos and misinformation on these platforms in the run-up to the election, it probably would be hard to disentangle the independent effects of Russian agents from all the scammers, hucksters, self-made pundits, opportunists, conspiracy theorists, activists, citizens, and partisan media businesses.

But that should make us step back and enlarge the question: If this is what electoral campaigns look like online, and especially on the largest social platform, Facebook, then what can be done about that?

Put simply: Is Facebook too big to work?