Are Frances Haugen‘s whistleblower revelations the drop for Facebook? American politics seems more united than ever to take action. But what measures can politics take to contain the power of the now giant company? News hour sets out a number of ideas with experts.
Addressing Monopoly Position
One of the things that has been talked about for a long time is breaking up Facebook. The company owns not only the eponymous platform, but also Instagram and whatsapp, for example, and has a very powerful position.
Marietje Schaake is a lecturer at Stanford University and as a member of the Real Facebook Oversight Board, keeps a close eye on Mark Zuckerberg’s company. She also sees something about breaking up Facebook.
“But that stands or falls to the definition of a monopoly,” she tells Nieuwsuur. “Facebook now says: we‘re not a monopoly, because look, they’re different companies, which is formally true.”
According to Schaake, therefore, much more focus should be on data. “When you see how much data is shared within one large group that operates across platforms, you can see much better how powerful such a company is.”
One idea that is also discussed is to nationalize Facebook. But that doesn‘t seem like Schaake a really good solution. “Then you keep the problem of lack of competition.”
Send whatsapp message to Signal
Facebook’s power is also so strong because the company tries to keep you on one of its platforms for as long as possible. Privacy watchdog Bits of Freedom therefore advocates Nieuwsuur for allowing third parties on the platform. “If other providers can be among them, you can decide if you‘re going somewhere else,” says platform expert at Bits of Freedom Lotje Beek.
“If you have Gmail, you can send an email to Hotmail. But you can’t use Signal to send a message to someone on whatsapp.” She therefore advocates so-called ‘interoperability’, which means that Facebook‘s now largely closed platforms can communicate more easily with other platforms and apps.
The advantage of being able is that it makes it easier for people to set their own terms to the apps they use. For example, other apps, such as Signal, are more friendly to privacy. Beek: “But now you have to use whatsapp because everyone’s on it.”
Bits of Freedom also wants a ban on so-called tracking ads. This allows platforms like Facebook to collect as much of your data as possible while you‘re online to create ads that are tailored to you. “An ad about makeup in a makeup video isn’t a problem, because that makes sense. But what we don‘t want is for Facebook to target you exactly because they know everything about you.”
Stanford teacher Marietje Schaake also wants more to be done against tracking. “When I get on the market with a clipboard and ask people what they did last night, they say leave me alone. But online you hardly know what’s kept of you.”
Addressing ‘Dark patterns‘
Another phenomenon that Bits of Freedom wants to be a ban on dark patterns. Dark patterns is the name of a certain way to design a site. The idea is not to give the user what they are looking for, but to make the design so that the user clicks on what the provider wants.
“Think of the cookie buttons that you need to press when you visit a site,” says Beek. “The accept button is larger than the one not to accept. And because you want a website, you‘re inclined to press quickly without really knowing what you’re pressing.”
Schaake is also in favour of tackling dark patterns. “But as far as I‘m concerned, this is all intertwined in a better data law, which does not exist in America now.”
Is something really going to change now?
Whether Facebook is really going to be reformed is still a question. The European Parliament is already talking about better data and privacy legislation, but it is not enough according to Bits of Freedom.
Whether politics in America, where Facebook comes from, are also going to take concrete steps is not certain. “American politics is highly polarized,” says Schaake. “Both parties don’t grant each other and that‘s why it’s hard to get something done.”
In addition to Facebook being accused of inciting political radicalisation, it was also a lot about the bad role Instagram has on young children on Tuesday in the Senate. “That topic does well for both parties in America,” says Schaake. “That could unite the parties.”