By Dan Calabrese
I know. You’re mad at Facebook for being biased against conservatives or whatever, and you’re pretty sure it needs some comeuppance for abusing its powerful platform to help the left. You’re convinced Facebook is censoring conservatives, and you’re incensed over the way Facebook has made it easier for mainstream media sites (meaning liberal sites) to reach their fans than alternative media sites (meaning conservative sites . . . and yes they have).
So even though you’re not the type to scream for regulation, and even though it probably seems a little off that a Republican senator is the one calling for it, you’re mad at Facebook and that trumps all else, so sure.
Regulate the bastards!
One problem: Facebook would love that, and based on the comments from Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana – who is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee – Facebook may be about to get exactly what it wants, while Facebook’s conservative antagonists unwittingly cheer:
“I don’t want to hurt Facebook. I don’t want to regulate them half to death,” Kennedy said. “But we have a problem. Our promised digital utopia has minefields in it.”
Facebook on Friday endorsed legislation known as the Honest Ads Act, which is aimed at countering concerns about foreign nationals using social media to influence American politics.
The legislation would expand existing election law covering television and radio outlets to apply to paid internet and digital advertisements.
The legislation, introduced last October but not yet passed, is aimed at countering concerns about foreign nationals using social media to influence American politics, which is part of the investigation into possible Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Russia denies involvement.
Under the act, digital platforms with at least 50 million monthly views would need to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by anyone spending more than $500.
Now, you may ask, what would Facebook want to be regulated? It’s gotten gigantic operating without having to deal with regulations.
That’s exactly why. It’s hard to grow while you’re dealing in a regulated space, and right now Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in the social media/tech space. It’s already done its growing, and has probably reached critical mass. Once you’ve reached the top, your focus shifts from growing to fending off upstart competitors. So let’s say Congress decides to heavily regulate the whole industry. Facebook is huge and cash-flush. It can invest in the regulatory-compliance apparatus necessary to stay on the right side of the bureaucracy. It also has the resources to lobby Congress to ensure the regulatory regime is crafted in a way that favors Facebook.
Meanwhile, heavier regulations create a burden that makes it harder for competitors, or those challenging Facebook’s model with new ideas, to gain market share.
This is why you don’t hear about regulated utilities lobbying for an end to the regulations. Living with the regulations is part of what they do, and they’ve got it mastered. In exchange, they get to be virtual monopolies, which are virtually immune from any risk of going out of business, ever.
Why wouldn’t Zuckerberg love that? That’s why Facebook is volunteering to have its ads subject to election law regulations. It’s gigantic and it can handle the regulatory requirements, whereas anyone seeking to enter the market as a competitor would have a much more difficult time.
It’s good to be the king. Don’t let your anger at Facebook rope-a-dope you into giving them exactly what they want, and don’t let Republican senators fall for it either.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!