Facebook is unfixable. We need a nonprofit, public-spirited replacement.

The corruption and surveillance culture of Facebook is baked in deep and can never be removed; if you doubt it, just peruse a sampling of their patent filings, which are like Black Mirror fanfic written by lawyers.

Tim Wu (previously) points out that sites on the scale of Facebook -- like Wikipedia -- deliver value to titanic, global audiences at a fraction of the cost of Facebook's operating budget. When you take out the spying, the sleaze, the giant paydays for execs and investors, it's a tractable proposition to run Facebook without Facebook, Inc.

Another “alt-Facebook” could be a nonprofit that uses that status to signal its dedication to better practices, much as nonprofit hospitals and universities do. Wikipedia is a nonprofit, and it manages nearly as much traffic as Facebook, on a much smaller budget. An “alt-Facebook” could be started by Wikimedia, or by former Facebook employees, many of whom have congregated at the Center for Humane Technology, a nonprofit for those looking to change Silicon Valley’s culture. It could even be funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was created in reaction to the failures of commercial television and whose mission includes ensuring access to “telecommunications services that are commercial free and free of charge.”

When a company fails, as Facebook has, it is natural for the government to demand that it fix itself or face regulation. But competition can also create pressure to do better. If today’s privacy scandals lead us merely to install Facebook as a regulated monopolist, insulated from competition, we will have failed completely. The world does not need an established church of social media.

Opinion | Don’t Fix Facebook. Replace It. [Tim Wu/New York Times]

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