Facebook has become an active threat, its massive profits and user growth driven by the inexorable forces of centralization. With U.S. regulators gutted by decades of bipartisan consensus, Facebook grew unchecked monopoly power through its ad targeting. The company has just barely begun to flex its lobbying muscle in the D.C. influence industry from its lucrative profit stream. Ahead of the 2020 election, it’s metastasized into an existential problem bigger than regulators in rich democracies have had the courage to tackle. Millions of hours have been spent to triage the problem of info silos, hate speech, extremism, misinformation, and disinformation on the unmanageable Facebook. It’s prompted hundreds of emergency conferences of journalists, advocacy groups, lawyers, policy makers, and especially think tanks.
For developers of the open Internet over the past 20 years, the experience of seeing the network effect fueling the astronomical profits of one democracy-destroying corporation has been beyond humbling. From the vantage point of the somewhat-more-tech-optimist days of 2005, of what Anil Dash has rightly called the “lost infrastructure” of open media standards for self-publishing, Facebook is the nightmare scenario of concentrated power.