Governments can’t regulate Tech. Try Taxing Their Divisive Actions.
In Paris at the second Tech For Good Summit held May 15, 2019, Canada’s National Observer says: “The world’s biggest technology companies have promised to work harder to stamp out hate speech on their platforms (…).
They signed this non-binding pledge into the ‘Christchurch Call.’ It is being spearheaded by Prime Minister Ardern and comes exactly two months after 51 people were murdered at two mosques in New Zealand in a terror attack livestreamed on social media.”
That’s nice. Mark and cohort are grinning smugly in the shadows however. Ministers haven’t heeded the lessons from Facebook co-founder McNamee’s book ‘Zucked’ or heard Tristan Harris talk about designing, not for human downgrading, but for Humane Tech.
Because trying to regulate a flow of free, live streamed content is impossible without facing our societies with impossible questions on what is appropriate — and therefore putting the blame on governements instead of the original culprits: Big Consumer Tech. Signing an accord that purpots to manage this is wishful thinking — and a way for Facebook, Google ( and SnapChat, somehow forgotten) to keep the dollars coming in while well-meaning people play Whack-a-Mole.
Asking the platforms to moderate this content is also generating a new kind of human abuse, that suffered by the moderators in Pakistan and Bangladesh, who have the onus of watching what used to stay deep inside our souls and is now offered world-wide fame, for “ free”! Facebook and Google are sending them our online filth — and destroying their minds in the process.
Tax Free-To-Use Media in the Name of Health and Democracy
What governements like Justin Trudeau’s can do, immediately and with surprising efficiency, is to tax the likes of Facebook for the “free” tools they provide. Because their revolutionary “free” design creates new externalities on a scale we have not witnessed before.
When producing TV basically becomes available to you, me, a 10 year-old, white supremacists and terrorists of all shades, thanks to free live streaming on Facebook, You Tube, TikTok or Snap Chat videos, this has major health and democracy impacts on our societies. The worst in us can now come out, without a filter.
If states still wish to exist in a few years, especially the Canadian one, they should tax the California Tech giants for the right to offer their multiple “ free”, yet costly services. We may just see swift design changes as a consequence — and use Tech For Good.
France is leading the way, even if its solution is an imperfect first attempt at adapting to this Brave New World. Its imposing a 3% tax on the revenue of Tech companies earning €750 million globally and €25 million in France.
My suggestion would be to have Big Consumer Tech report to states every time someone uses their “free” service. Then to levy a tax per user to account for the cost to states of compensating for the mistrust, unhealthy and dangerous behaviours and plain old deaths this new access to massive communications for individuals is having. Oh, and the younger the user, the higher the tax because that’s when the damage is the strongest!