Chastened by the negative effects of social media, Mark Zuckerberg says he will tweak his service and upgrade society in the process. Should any company be that powerful?
About 10 years after TVs began to be ubiquitous in American homes, television broadcasting was a staggering financial success. As the head of the Federal Communications Commission observed in a 1961 speech to broadcast executives, the industry’s revenue, more than $1 billion a year, was rising 9 percent annually, even in a recession. The problem, the FCC chairman told the group, was the way the business was making money: not by serving the public interest above all but by airing a lot of dumb shows and “cajoling and offending” commercials. “When television is bad, nothing is worse,” he said.
That speech would become known for the pejorative that the FCC chairman, Newton Minow, used to describe TV: he called it “a vast wasteland.” It’s a great line, but there are other reasons to revisit the speech now, about 10 years after the emergence of another communications service—Facebook—that has become ubiquitous in American homes, a staggering financial success, and a transmitter of a lot of pernicious schlock. What’s striking today is why Minow said the vast-wasteland problem mattered—and what he wanted to do about it.
As for why it mattered, Minow told the TV executives:
Your industry possesses the most powerful voice in America. It has an inescapable duty to make that voice ring with intelligence and with leadership. In a few years, this exciting industry has grown from a novelty to an instrument of overwhelming impact on the American people. It should be making ready for the kind of leadership that newspapers and magazines assumed years ago, to make our people aware of their world.
On that point in particular, Mark Zuckerberg apparently would agree. “Are we building the world we all want?” he wrote in February, in a 5,700-word manifesto that reflected on the sometimes dubious role Facebook has been playing in civic life. Referring to its propensity to turbocharge hoaxes and to the way it tends to make news feel sensational, he wrote that Facebook’s goal “must be to help people see a more complete picture” of the world.
- : https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604082/we-need-more-alternatives-to-facebook/?utm_campaign=add_this&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=post
- : Brian Bergstein
- : MIT Technology Review