If Facebook worked we wouldn't be in this mess

Revenues from subscriptions rather than from advertising would improve Facebook and silence critics.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Video: Data Caper: How Cambridge Analytica hoarded voters' personal details

I wish Facebook worked for me and looked out for me and my communities -- instead of trying to sell me out at every opportunity.

I wish Facebook kept an eye out for me -- instead of keeping an eye on everything I do.

Also: How Cambridge Analytica used your Facebook data to help elect Trump | Securing Facebook: Keep your data safe with these privacy settings | How Google aims to save journalism, thwart fake news and trump Facebook

If Facebook worked...

If Facebook worked for me, it wouldn't have to keep guessing the news sources or people I want to see in my news feed. I'd gladly tell it. And it wouldn't have to worry about developing ad technologies and new ways to sell more stuff.

If Facebook worked for me, I would pay it to make sure my mom can still get to my photos. I'd pay for messaging, calendar, and other services.

If Facebook worked for me, it wouldn't need to collect, store, analyze, and sell all that private information. It wouldn't need to build all that IT infrastructure.

If Facebook worked for me, it could just sit back and relax and make sure the servers are plugged-in, maintain some APIs, and collect regular monthly subscriptions.

Facebook wouldn't need to keep up in the crazy digital advertising world or have to find new ways to spy on its own users or keep getting into trouble for selling the wrong data to the wrong people.

It could become a safe, fun place to hang with friends and family, and everyone would like CEO Mark Zuckerberg again.

Read also: Oculus Go VR headset to launch at Facebook's F8 in May

And it would have just one person to worry about -- a Facebook user -- instead of having to deal with advertisers, politicians, regulators, privacy groups, endless media attention, and disgruntled staff.


Wired magazine's March cover: A badly bruised (and Photoshopped) Mark Zuckerberg. Social media's mass media moment.

(Image via @TaylorLorenz/Twitter)

AI and algorithms can't help

It's not going to get any better. It's going to get worse, and AI and algorithms can't help.

Zuckerberg clearly wants to do the right thing. A solution to his headaches is to convert Facebook to a paid service -- one that helps people thrive in the modern digital world instead of becoming their chief adversary.

The bell tolls for Google, too. It might think it's getting away scot-free in the storm raging around Facebook, but it won't be able to side-step the inevitable regulations that will come.

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They're inevitable because Facebook and Google won the media war. They hold two-thirds of the entire digital advertising market and more than 85 percent of all new mobile advertising deals.

Read also: Mark Zuckerberg outlines Facebook's response to Cambridge Analytica controversy

The remainder goes to Microsoft, Oath, Amazon, and Twitter, in order of size. There is no traditional mass media company on that list.

The new mass media

Facebook and Google have disrupted mass media. They have displaced mass media. They are now the mass media. And mass media is heavily regulated. Legislators understand the problems mass media can create -- better than Facebook and Google it seems -- which see themselves only as technology platforms.

Politicians know a media company when they see one, and they will apply similar controls.

Read also: How Google aims to save journalism, thwart fake news and trump Facebook

Silicon Valley can change entire industries, but disrupting governments is a fantasy. Legislators know how to code laws, which always trumps coding apps.

Previous and related coverage

Securing Facebook: Keep your data safe with these privacy settings

Facebook privacy settings explained: Don't let your personal information get in the wrong hands.

How Cambridge Analytica used your Facebook data to help elect Trump

The Russian-linked Cambridge Analytica scammed 50 million US Facebook users for their data. The right-wing, voter-profiling company then used their information to target Americans with personalized anti-Clinton and pro-Trump propaganda.

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