Facebook’s sudden fall from grace has toppled long-held assumptions that it couldn’t be regulated. Now a rare bipartisan consensus has emerged that Facebook’s unaccountable power may require government intervention.
The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal helped kick-start an overdue conversation about monopoly power, its pernicious effects on society, and government’s role in stopping it. With implications far beyond Facebook, a precious opportunity for structural reform has opened.
How can we seize it? Mark Zuckerberg himself has said in interviews and during his congressional testimony that regulation might be necessary. But what kind of regulation? Do we repeat past mistakes and defer to weak self-regulations that will fade over time? Or do we subject Facebook to real public oversight and implement re-distributive measures?
Thus far, discussions have focused mostly on user privacy, which is vitally important. But we also should consider a broader, bolder vision for what Facebook owes society in return for the incredible power we’ve allowed it to accumulate—even as we contain and erode that power. It’s time for a new social contract.