How Should Facebook Be Fixed?

The technology site Recode interviewed 12 "leading thinkers and leaders on Facebook today," including the Senator pushing tech-industry updates for U.S. antitrust law, an early researcher on viral misinformation, and a now-critical former Facebook executive. "[M]ost believe that Facebook can be fixed, or at least that some of its issues are possible to improve..." Their ideas are wide-ranging, with some more ambitious and unexpected than others. But common themes emerge in many of their answers that reveal a growing consensus about what Facebook needs to change and a few different paths that regulators and the company itself could take to make it happen: - Antitrust enforcement. Facebook isn't just Facebook but, under the Meta umbrella, also Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Oculus. And several experts Recode interviewed believe that forcing Facebook to spin off these businesses would defang it of its concentrated power, allow smaller competitors to arise, and challenge the company to do better by offering customers alternatives for information and communication. - Create a federal agency to oversee social media, like the Food and Drug Administration. The social media industry has no dedicated oversight agency in the U.S. the way that other industries do, despite its growing power and influence in society. That's why some people we interviewed advocated for making a new agency — or at least increasing funding for the existing FTC — so that it could regulate safety standards on the internet the same way the FDA does for food and pharmaceutical drugs. - Change Facebook's leadership. Facebook's problems are almost synonymous with the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, who has unilaterally controlled the company he started in his Harvard dorm room in 2004. Many interviewees believe that for any meaningful change to happen, Facebook needs an executive shake-up, starting from the very top... some experts Recode interviewed suggested that Facebook executives should be criminally prosecuted for either misleading business partners or downplaying human harms their company causes. The experts also want reforms on the safety-from-prosecution shields of Section 230 "in a way that won't run into First Amendment challenges," and also increased transparency from social media companies about problematic content. "Some of the experts interviewed by Recode argued that Facebook and other social media companies should be legally required to share certain internal data with vetted researchers about what information is circulating on their platforms."

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