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Is Facebook Too Big to Fight Its Ad Problem?

September 22, 2017

Policing how a quarter of the world uses a website isn’t easy. Mark Zuckerberg knows that all too well. It’s the reason why his social network has had to announce that it’s now sharing 3,000 Russian-linked ads from its pages as part of a government investigation into election meddling.

Meantime, Zuck has taken to a Facebook Live stream (how else?) to explain that he cares “deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity.” He has also outlined new initiatives to increase transparency and vetting of ads, to stop the future spread of damaging propaganda.

Still, his promises came with telling caveats. “We don't check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don't think our society should want us to,” he explained. “Freedom means you don't have to ask permission first, and that by default you can say what you want.” That final sentence surely summarizes Facebook's biggest strength, and simultaneously its largest headache.

“I wish I could tell you we're going to be able to stop all interference,” he also explained. “But that wouldn't be realistic. There will always be bad people in the world, and we can't prevent all governments from all interference.” Those bad people, of course, become even harder to weed out when you're dealing with two billion users.

To that point, the New York Times makes a compelling and timely argument: namely, that Zuck has built something so big and powerful he’s no longer able to control it. (The article’s title, “Facebook’s Frankenstein Moment,” just about says it all.)

Perhaps, as we’ve argued in the past, the time has come to break Facebook's monopoly.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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