News & Politics

Want Facebook Regulation? Be Careful What You Wish For

Facebook has its feet to the fire. Revelations of digital naughtiness by the social media giant aren’t anything new, but hatred for President Trump has this latest “scandal” resonating with users.

“As Facebook continues to clean up the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” writes Slate‘s April Glaser, “it’s become clearer and clearer to users and policymakers alike that the company probably can’t be trusted to regulate itself. … Though in multiple interviews on Wednesday Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he’s open to the idea of some form of regulation, by the looks of it, the company hasn’t always adhered to the federal rules it was already supposed to be following. ”

She has a point on the latter note. More importantly, however, any demands to regulate the private sector based on a current outrage must be met with extreme skepticism.

Concerns about digital privacy are smart. However, Facebook can only divulge information that you give it. It doesn’t require social security numbers or credit card information. Everything else it knows, you give it willingly.

Will new regulations keep that information out of third-party hands? Not likely.

Keep in mind the precedence that all regulations set. By definition, more and more laws governing technology companies means higher and higher burdens on new technologies and businesses. New competition gets hobbled — and Facebook gets even more powerful.

For all his sins, Mark Zuckerberg is a 21st Century free market success story. He made himself into a billionaire, the next generation of digital pioneer following Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The relatively little regulation those tech companies were required to adhere to allowed them to focus on their products, not paperwork.

But an attempt to rein in Facebook because you’re upset about President Trump could seal today’s big boys as permanent overseers of the world’s technological development. Plus, it’s quite possible Obama doesn’t win in 2012 without Facebook’s help.

Regulating industry with laws based on emotion, not outcome, is exactly how just about every unexpected consequence of Big Government occurs. Take it easy on the grandstanding, and let’s get to the bottom of this situation before crafting laws that make you feel better.