Social platforms like Facebook and Google are nowadays commonplace. Every time you open a certain social app, you leave some pieces of data behind. Not only the social companies use those pieces of information, but also other parties like Silicon Valley use your piece of data.
The problem with social media is that they can use their platform for anything. If you searched for republicans and their insights, your apps will show you nothing else than one-sided articles about the point of view of the republicans. Think about Russia posting a lot of articles on, for example, Facebook to influence the elections. This way, those social platforms play a huge role in the international system. They are used for political reasons. Even if you discuss things in your surroundings like getting a tutor, the apps will show advertisements about getting a tutor.
This way social platforms collect a lot of information about you, your surroundings and habits even if you do not give permission to do so. They track everything you do. Those algorithms can influence your opinion based on the articles you read. Their revenue model is to keep you busy on their platform for as long as possible.
Those companies even manipulate people to use their app more often. Take WhatsApp for example, you can see if someone is online or typing, this causes the eager to wait for their response instead of putting away your phone and do homework. These manipulative ways of controlling behavior are called nudges.
Unfortunately, there are no laws or regulations yet to curtail the power of those companies. Governments have a very hard time to control, like professor Nierstrasz explained in seminar 2 of the course International Political Economy. Their power and impact are nothing but increasing, causing the fact that they will be monopolists on the market.
I write this blog in response to the just released documentary on Netflix called “The Social Dilemma”. Even though the documentary is very negative and a little overdone, the message is clear: there has to be some regulation to control those platforms.
For the governance, it is a logical step to regulate these industries as public utilities. This way it will not only be seen as economic entities but also as moral and social actors. One way to reduce the problem of manipulation of the platforms is to separate the information functions from their paid services like advertising.
In my opinion, this would solve one part of the problem. This way people know the difference and can decide to join or not to join the paid services. However, the problem of the companies collecting data without intended permission will not be solved by this regulation. I think there should be a policy which you, as user, have to accept which states very clear that the platform is using all your data. I even believe in making an option to select which data the industries can and cannot use. This way users will be informed about the data being utilized.
 Alex Rochefort, “Regulating Social Media Platforms: A Comparative Policy Analysis,” Taylor & Francis, April 17, 2020, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10811680.2020.1735194.