Monday, January 11, 2021
Social-Media Oligopolists Are the New Railroad Barons. It's Time for Washington to Treat Them Accordingly - Quillette
It isn’t just the technology itself that has drastically altered the debate about the limits of inflammatory speech, but also the consequent shift in decision-making power from public to private hands. Just a few decades ago, it was taken for granted that government policymakers and Supreme Court justices were the most important decision makers when it came to setting the ground rules on free speech. That’s no longer the case, because the entities that control mass-market peer-to-peer content, software, and monetization—including Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, PayPal, GoFundMe, and Patreon—are largely unconstrained by any kind of government oversight. These are privately run companies that have aggressively leveraged network effects—the phenomenon by which the value of a user’s network engagement increases in tandem with the participation of other users—to create a communications oligopoly. As a result, crucial decisions about what can and cannot be said in the public sphere are now being made by small groups of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. In some cases, it really just comes down the up-or-down vote of a single person.
And in this case, it's the up-or-down vote of dude with a long, smelly beard windsurfing in Tahiti.