Last month, CreativeFuture asked you, our followers, what you thought about platform responsibility. Little did we know that, in the meantime, the issue would start taking over the front pages of our newspapers and websites!
In a nutshell, the issue is whether Google, Facebook, and their Silicon Valley peers should take responsibility for the ways their platforms are used to violate our laws and harm society.
Even before the House and Senate passed landmark legislation to demand accountability from the tech giants and even before Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica mess exploded, we asked your views on a few simple questions that came down to one thing: do you believe that Google and Facebook should be more responsible?
The answer, overwhelmingly, was that you do – and you had a lot to add in response. Here are just some of your comments:
- “The organizations who own these platforms make enormous profits. They have a responsibility to make sure the platforms are not being used to harm others.”
- “They have the greatest ability to do so. And a moral responsibility. Just because it’s a newer technology doesn’t exempt them.”
- “Because if they are able to control it, and I believe that they can, then they should be held accountable and responsible if they don’t.”
- “They are providing the service that is being used for these malicious acts. They are responsible! They need to find a solution and be held accountable!”
- “Violations of the law should be prosecuted. To avoid prosecution, they should take proactive steps to prevent violations.”
- “They created these platforms, they should be responsible for them. They are beyond wealthy from them and can afford to police them. U.S. laws should apply everywhere in the U.S., including [the internet]!”
- “Times change, services change, service providers change. Rules must keep up with changes.”
- “Hostile foreign governments are using internet social platforms to publish untrue propaganda in order to destabilize our nation … if they can’t or won’t [monitor their platforms], they should be heavily fined and shut down. It is their responsibility for doing business in this country.”
- “Responsibility is part of having a business.”
- “[Google and Facebook] are no different from any other corporation which has the responsibility not to enable breaking the law. They are complicit and just a guilty as those breaking the law.”
- “I can’t believe we even have to ask this question. I am sick and tired of corporations bearing no responsibility for the effects of their services on people. If a crime is occurring and the corporation looks the other way, that cannot be allowed any longer.”
- “They don’t want the responsibility of accountability because complying would eat into profits with no returns. So, it will NEVER happen unless it is legislated.”
- “The internet has become perhaps the single most important source of information and communication in the world. It cannot just rake in profits and not be responsible for what they have created.”
This week, on April 10 and 11, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify twice before Congress on the issues facing his company, and Silicon Valley generally. We expect that Zuckerberg will be very well prepped by his army of lawyers. We anticipate that he will try to reassure Congress that Facebook is doing all it can to (1) protect the privacy of its users; (2) prevent foreign influence on its advertising networks; and (3) stop rampant violations of the law from being carried out on their platform.
But Congress should not settle for head-pats and platitudes. They need to ask some hard and direct questions. We hope they will include the following…
[The MMA is another example of Big Tech’s lobbying clout.]
The Music Modernization Act (MMA) will forgive Spotify for years of bad behavior. Ahead of its passage, the company is already moving forward with some post-MMA acquisition plans.
Spotify’s ‘non-IPO’ came with a lot of complex puzzles. For example: why is a company that has lost $3 billion — and $1.5 billion in the last year — worth $26.5 billion on Wall Street?
Smart analysts like Peter Kafka pointed to a paid subscriber base of 71 million. That’s something that even mega-media companies like Disney have trouble attaining. Others recognized that Spotify is at the forefront of where music is going, and potentially building a pie that’s big enough for multiple elephants to enjoy (like Apple, Amazon, and Google).
But there’s another big reason: U.S. Congress. The Music Modernization Act is now fast-tracking through the House, and is likely to get passed quickly. It’s a great bill on many fronts, and the decision to consolidate numerous other bills into a ‘mega-bill’ defies gridlock….
Just one problem: music publishers will lose their right to sue Spotify for infringements that occurred in the past.
That’s right: the MMA closes the door to all litigation against Spotify related to unpaid mechanical licenses. We’re talking billions of dollars in damages here, money that publishers will not be able to sue Spotify to recover.
Even more advantageous to Spotify: the cut-off date for lawsuits is actually in the past: January 1st, 2018.
That explains why Wixen Music Publishing launched a lawsuit for $1.6 billion against Spotify — right after Christmas of 2017. Wixen realized that when the MMA passes both chambers and becomes law, their claim to past infringements become null & void.Other publishers couldn’t react quickly enough, if they even realized the fine print before January 1st. But hey: sometimes you gotta play dirty.
As a long time critic of Silicon Valley business models and the state of internet governance, I have been swamped with communications from friends and colleagues expecting me to be overjoyed with the attention on Facebook which has dominated discussion this week. And I suppose part of me is, but mostly I am worried. I am worried that there are too many parties who want to treat Facebook as an outlier rather than as a manifestation of a much broader problem. As abuse of the system rather than as a design flaw. As a failure to protect privacy rather than as a failure to build systems which enhance human agency and the role of consent.
[Odd coincidence, Congress finally cuts back CDA 230 safe harbor that protected Google while promoting sex trafficking on the same day that Congress passed the new MMA safe harbor that protects Google while profiting from infringement. Just another day in Washington…]
President Trump signed a bill Wednesday that gives federal and state prosecutors greater power to pursue websites that host sex-trafficking ads and enables victims and state attorneys general to file lawsuits against those sites….
The bill, nicknamed “FOSTA” for its title, “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” goes into effect immediately, but its impact was already being seen around the Internet as sites shut down sex-related areas and stopped accepting sex-related advertising….
Civil liberties advocates attacked the bill as too broad, creating new liability for websites that had previously been protected by the Communications Decency Act for content posted by third parties. A number of websites, including Craigslist, began shutting down sections that might be construed as sex-related after the bill passed the Senate last month, and Wagner said online sex-related advertising revenue had declined 87 percent in the past 60 days, roughly when her bill passed the House.
At Marvel in New York in the ’60s, he created the comic book characters that dominate the box office today. But at 95 and reeling from his wife’s death and a fight with his daughter, Lee stands at the center of a nasty battle for his care (and estate) as one friend pleads for help: “He’s in need of a superhero himself.”