There is some encouraging news on the tech front: fewer Americans believe government regulation of social media platforms should be implemented. This comes after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress last week.
A new WSJ/NBC poll released on April 16th found that Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the federal government placing regulations on social media giants in wake of the Cambridge-Analytica data revelations. This survey found that 37% of respondents believe Facebook and Twitter aren't sufficiently regulated, 37% of respondents polled believe they have enough regulations placed on them, and 14% of respondents polled said the two listed platforms were too over-regulated.
Last week, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) rightly probed Zuckerberg about inherent political bias and asked for clarity if pro-life speech would be deemed "hate speech" on his platform, respectively. During his exchange with Senator Cruz, Zuckerberg even admitted Silicon Valley is an "extremely left-leaning place" and that he was "concerned" about a disproportionate amount of political bias against right-leaning individuals who use his platform.
Despite growing skepticism about government regulation of platforms like Facebook, many have called for Facebook to to be regulated in wake of the 2016 election. As I wrote here at The Resurgent last December, one NYU professor argued Facebook was manipulated by the Trump campaign to win the presidency. Regulation of such platforms with respect to suppressing certain kinds of speech — even conservative speech — would lead to serious First Amendment issues. Instead, some tech experts believe these platforms should self-regulate:
Instead, social media networks could develop and implement algorithms for identifying and removing fake news by marshaling the same engines that spread fake news in the first place. These algorithms would not be administered by the government; rather, Facebook and other social media would be responsible...Such self-regulation is in the best interest of these media companies. It would increase the confidence of their users in what they encounter online. It would also have the added benefit of keeping government regulators at bay...In the end, the ultimate antidote to fake news and bots is the rationality of the human mind.
Lincoln Network—a center-right coalition of tech professionals—has offered alternatives to governmental regulation for Silicon Valley to dig itself out of the very hole it created. Here are the recommendations from their recent white paper "Viewpoint Diversity In Tech: Reality Or Myth?" they offered:
- Include viewpoint diversity questions in company-led employee surveys and release the findings publicly during self-reporting of other diversity data.
- Encourage the development of employee resource groups through which employees can share and discuss diverse political and religious viewpoints.
- If diversity training is offered or required at any level, ensure viewpoint diversity is adequately covered in the curriculum. Include examples of bias on the basis of ideology and religion.
- Create best practices on viewpoint diversity and make them publicly available to any small tech startup or company in any industry.
- Create accountability metrics for senior executives and diversity and inclusion officers to measure progress in improving viewpoint diversity.
- Ensure that speakers with diverse ideological viewpoints are welcomed by the company and at industry conferences.
- Invest resources to experiment with how existing products and technical teams can help scale innovative approaches to increasing empathy and tolerance in the workplace, such as Deliberative Democracy and Heterodox Academy.
- Create six-month or one-year deployments for non-technical and technical managers to live in non-tech hubs around the country to engage with employees that have a wide range of ideological and religious views.
- Increase budget allocations for user research for product development in non-tech hubs and non-coastal cities.
- Convene public events in tech hubs and other cities across the country that provide forums for civil, fact-based discussions about important issues leading into the 2018 and 2020 election cycles.
Anytime the government desires to involve itself in the private sector, the results are less than desirable. The calls for regulating social media are careless, lazy, and dangerous.
It's encouraging to see public opinion trend in the limited government column in this instance. Social media certainly has its issues, but further regulations will further compound them rather than ameliorate them.