Internet Needs Better Rules, Not Stricter Referees — Substack founders Chris Best and Hamish McKenzie just penned a wise and necessary critique of the existing paradigm of social media. The complete article can be found here.
The recent Facebook leaks have prompted a torrent of proposals for fixing social media’s harmful effects on society, including demands for more oversight by company executives, boards, or regulators. None of these addresses the core problem of the attention economy, which no amount of top-down control can fix.
The real problem is at the foundation: a business model that sells people’s attention to advertisers, which motivates companies to reward the content that most effectively manipulates people’s emotions. That in turn, because of the platforms’ scale and dominance, has knock-on effects for all of media, culture, and politics. The only path to a healthier internet is to build a new foundation, with a model that gives power back to people.
Social media giants already have too much control over discourse. They have user populations greater than the population of any country on earth, and their moderation policies affect many times more people than the First Amendment does. We should be wary of inviting these companies to referee discourse even more than they already do.
Instead, the key to a healthier platform is to flip the power dynamic: give the people themselves the power to choose what they pay attention to.