A Hip Bro Excuse: We Cannot Modify Our System and Software

March 5, 2019

I was zipping through news this morning, and I spotted “Google to Ban Political Ads Ahead of Federal Election, Citing New Transparency Rules.” The “rules” apply to Canada, not the United States. Google will not sell ads. That’s interesting.

The main point of the article for me was the reason Google will turn down money and leave a giant pile of cash on the table was this sentence in the write up (which I assume is true, of course):

Google is banning political advertising on its platforms ahead of the Canadian federal election because of new ad transparency rules it says would be too challenging to comply with.

Challenge, when I hear the word, means “too darned difficult.” A connotation for me is “what a waste of time and effort.” Another is a variation on the Bezos basic, “Just walk away”; for instance, Hasta la vista, Nueva York.”

Is adapting Google’s ad sense too challenging for a company which has a boat load of talented programmers?

What I find interesting is that Facebook has the same limitation. Do you recall that Facebook users were going to get a control that would allow them to delete some of their data. The delay, I heard, is a consequence of figuring out how to make delete work.

Net net: Two outfits with smart people are unable to modify their respective systems.

Do I believe that technical modifications are too difficult?

Yeah, I believe the moon is made of green cheese as well. The questions these technical challenges beg include:

  • What is the specific problem?
  • Is the system intractable so that other changes are too great a challenge? If so, what functions cannot be altered?
  • What is the engineering approach at Google which renders its software unfixable?
  • Are Google’s (and Facebook’s) engineers less effective than technical personnel at other companies; for example, Apple or Microsoft?
  • What’s the personnel problem? Is underpaying certain ethnic groups an issue?

Maybe regulations are the optimal way to deal with companies unable to comply with government regulations?

Stephen E Arnold, March 5 2019

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