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Fixing, saving social media: “The business of business is now society”



Even as Facebook addresses its crisis management over privacy issues, Facebook Introduces Central Page For Privacy and Security Settings it might well ponder advice just offered from concerned, informed “outliers” – literally, from “outside the box.”

This is by no means “piling on”. Each commentator suggests well-meaning — but  significant — change to the social media business model. Facebook and other social media companies would be well advised to study these suggestions because some may be included in government regulations which are sure to be developed in the months ahead.


. Academics Wael Ghonim and Jake Rashbass at the Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy –

 In addressing short-tem business interest vs. long-term public interest in

Transparency: What’s Gone Wrong With Social Media and What Can We Do About it? –

“Platforms should no longer use engagement-driven algorithms to maximize revenues at the expense of social well-being. To get accountability, we need far more transparency of the outputs produced by these algorithms… Transparency  can deter bad actors from manipulating the system.

“We believe that all platforms using algorithms to distribute content should develop a standardized public interest API (a standard interface for sharing and accessing data) that provides a detailed overview of the information distributed on their networks, while respecting concerns for user privacy, trade secrets, and intellectual property …

“The leaders of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have all proclaimed the value of transparency. It is now time for these companies to match their words with commensurate actions. If not, it’s only a matter of time before governments intervene with regulatory action.”

. Journalist Kevin Roose in his New York Times column today, Can Social Media Be Saved?  –

 Roose presents these admittedly more “radical interventions” as options for change: A social network run by its users; a federated social network; or making social graphs temporary.


. Ethical culturist, CEO of the LRN consultancy, Dov Seidman in

“How Mark Zuckerberg Can Save Facebook — and Us” –

“Precisely because we are in just the beginning of a technological revolution with a long, uncertain, up-and-down road ahead, we need to start by pausing to reflect on how our world, reshaped bythese technologies, operates differently and on the kind of values and leadership we will need to realize their promise …

“…the business of business of business is no longer just business. The business of business is now society …. how you take or don’t take responsibility for what your technology enables or for what happens on your platforms is inescapable. This is the emerging expectation of users — real people — who’ve entrusted so much of their inner lives to these powerful companies.”


Perhaps the grand context here has been provided in an analogy by Christopher Wylie, the whistle blower in the Cambridge Analytica data controversy, as reported in The New York Times:

 “His message is clear: If you aren’t already worried about your personal data being used, now would be a good time to start. ‘The way I like to think of it, data is the electricity of our new economy, and electricity can be quite dangerous’, he said. ‘We enjoy the benefits of electricity, despite the fact that it can literally kill you.'”


The wise counsel of  these thought leaders resonates with the fundamental question asked in an earlier blog: “What does a company owe it’s country — and society?”