Democratize Social Media (Dispatches from a Dying Democracy, Part II)

If the impact of social media advertising and censorship are a concern, then—the thinking goes— why not turn major platforms into public utilities like PBS and NPR, where the government can’t have a relationship with advertisers and where speech is protected by the First Amendment? But while this idea on the surface sounds incredibly appealing, I can’t help but shake the suspicion of “good in theory/monstrous in practice.” In light of the fact that the United States has become a post-9/11 surveillance state, both by means of the Patriot Act and through NSA spying, it seems a tad naive to entrust this same state to somehow be the protector of our dignity and privacy online. Far better, I submit—and far more ambitious, perhaps— to turn major platforms like Facebook and Twitter into the world’s largest cooperatives.

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