Fixing Section 230: Twitter, Facebook And Social Media Should Legally Be Part Of The Public Square

It is my opinion that too often Internet platforms violate our privacy, arrogantly regulate speech and abuse monopoly power, but it is important to recognize what are and are not problems.

Bigness is not necessarily an issue and often offers resources to propel progress. Facebook (FB) is a leader in artificial intelligence research, Google (GOOG, GOOGL) gave us Android, Amazon (AMZN) pioneered cloud computing and Apple (AAPL) is poised to make electric vehicles. Smaller companies lack the billions of dollars necessary to make those kinds of bets.

Unfortunately, the FAAGs too often behave as if run by adolescents and now face antitrust scrutiny. Apple for overcharging app developers, Amazon for strong-arming small businesses on its platform, Google for manipulating ad-space-auctioning software to hobble competitors, and Facebook for acquisitions that allegedly monopolize the social media market.

Facebook may have a monopoly by providing a substantially differentiated digital bulletin board where we can keep up with family and locate lost classmates, but it is a free service making nonexistent direct economic harm to consumers — the sine qua non of modern antitrust enforcement.

In the advertising market, Google has the largest market share. It is noteworthy that the Justice Department has gone after Google, not Facebook, for monopoly abuse in the online ad space.

The Federal Trade Commission suit against Facebook is so wrongheaded that it appears a desperate government attempt to rein in the company owing to gross data privacy misdeeds going back to the Cambridge Analytica and affair and enabling Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. And for the complaints of Democratic and Republican politicians about editorial abuses at both Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB).

Forcing Facebook to divest Instagram and WhatsApp, as the FTC seeks, won’t solve the data mining and privacy problems — that requires legislation similar to the EU General Data Regulation, which requires that users understand and consent to the data collected about them and how it will be used.

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Peter Morici is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and widely published columnist. He is the five time winner of the MarketWatch best forecaster ...

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