In the UK, a group of TV broadcasters, mobile network and internet service providers have all urged the government to strengthen its oversight of social media companies. In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, executives from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, as well as Sky, BT and TalkTalk, called for a new, independent regulator to help tackle fake news, child exploitation, harassment and other growing issues online. This is great news, isn’t it? I mean, it’s what we’ve been seeking in the United States for some time now. Well, maybe not everyone. What seems to be happening, is that “we” are putting the expectation on the tech giants – like Twitter or Facebook – to make all the judgment calls about what content is appropriate or acceptable. And there is absolutely no oversight to it.
Sure, we get outraged when we see something inappropriate posted – Logan Paul is the first person who comes to mind. But what happens when we become desensitized to it? Or when the moral police have closed up shop? Or worse – no longer have a voice because of oppressive governmental regimes? Sure, my words sound a bit dire, but let’s think about this for a moment. Companies like Facebook and Twitter and even Google are able to do whatever they want, however, they want, and there is literally nothing or no one standing in their way.
We saw this all too well when the news broke that Facebook had provided Cambridge Analytica with your own personal data. No one really knew what they were doing with that data, or who actually had it. But we all knew that it was bad news. And to this day, nothing has been done to stop it, or prevent it in the future. Sure, Mark Zuckerberg looks really bad in the mainstream media, what does that mean? It just means that he gets a better publicist and then he starts to look good. My point is that without some kind of oversight, companies are going to do what companies are going to do – and to hell with the wants or the needs of the user.
Truth be told, all of this is coming to light because of the fake news phenomenon. We, as citizens need to feel like we can turn to our favorite news outlets and not be duped by the seemingly fake news. And not the Donald Trump kind where he dispells facts by crying “fake news”. I mean actual news that is legitimately untrue. The question that is being raised by this group in the UK, is whether or not we can trust tech companies to be able to police themselves. And the answer to that is no, they can’t. Broadcasters and communications executives believe that a new, dedicated regulator would be more effective.
And they’re not wrong. But we should also consider the fact that it won’t end here. With the rapidly growing field of technology, we are going to need some kind of regulations in place to ensure that technology is being developed in an ethical way. That’s not to say that technology is bad, or the people who are creating it are bad either. But there needs to be some kind of threshold for ensuring that what gets consumed by the public has been vetted in some way, or there are consequences if it doesn’t meet certain standards. I’m happy to see that folks in the UK are at least considering this and I would really like to see this kind of body developed in the US as well.