Ah, Ha! The Social Media Conundrum?

August 8, 2022

Facebook and Twitter both began as humble undergrad side projects. Both platforms, and social media in general, have since mutated into something much more consequential. That is why The Next Web declares “Social Media Companies Should Be Converted Into Nonprofits.” Writer David Ryan Polgar asserts:

“Social media companies like Twitter have morphed — whether their founders intended them to or not — into important social institutions with grave consequences for both the future of democracy and the human condition. Yet these platforms still remain constrained by their structures as for-profit companies with a duty to their shareholders. Whether Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk (if the Twitter deal goes through) are acting in the best interest of the public as they lead their respective companies is missing the larger point: They should never have such unchecked power. To allow such is to enter a future where the public is vulnerable to billionaires’ whims as they shape the future of communication. That isn’t a future I’d want to live in.”

You mean we cannot trust a few billionaires to navigate the fine line between protecting free expression and reigning in hate speech, misinformation, and other harmful content? While such a balance is tricky even for governments, Polgar notes, at least there voters have some say in who is making these choices. The write-up continues:

“Twitter’s growth into a ‘de facto public town square,’ I would argue, should necessitate its radically reimagining its business structure, transforming into a nonprofit or benefit corporation, which is a legal structure that includes the overall benefit to society as an objective of the business, not just maximizing profits. If the platform immensely affects the public — as both Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk argue it does — its business model should serve the public interest and not shareholders or the ego of a company leader.”

We cannot argue with that last sentiment, but not all nonprofits benefit society as one would hope. The other direction implied here would be to make social media platforms into government entities, an idea that would float as well as a lead balloon in today’s climate. So what is society to do? The solution continues to elude as we chug along in a landscape paved by social media.

Cynthia Murrell, August 8, 2022


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