When questioned by legislators with the power to regulate (and possibly punish) its behavior, Facebook pleads it is a tech company. When Facebook is assessing what content to allow, it considers the newsworthiness, which sounds suspiciously like something a publishing enterprise would do. So which is it?
A bat found herself hanging head down in a nest of weasels. The moment she arrived, the mother weasel, who had long despised mice, came running to devour the bat.
What?! You dare, the weasel said, to appear before my eyes. After your race has tried to destroy me. Are you a mouse? Speak truly. Of course you are, or I’m not a weasel.
I beg your pardon, the poor bat said, that’s not my sort at all. Me, a mouse? Some huckster must have given you that news. Thanks to the author of the universe, I am a bird. See my wings. Long live the race that takes to the air!
The bat’s reasoning pleased the weasel and seemed sound. The bat spoke so well that she was given her freedom.
Two days later, the dizzied bat blindly tried to cram herself into another weasel’s home, this one the sworn enemy of all birds. Her life was in danger, once again. The lady of the house, with her long nose, was about ready to eat the bird-like bat, when Her Batness protested that an outrage would be committed.
Me, to be taken for a bird?! You’re not even looking. What makes a bird? It’s the feathers. I’m a mouse. Long live the rats. Jupiter, expose the cats.
With this adroit repartee, the bat saved her life twice.
I’ve known quite a few who, with a change of scarf, like the bat, have fooled danger.
Depending on present company, the wise one says:
Long Live the King! Long Live the Republic!
Is Facebook a tech company with more content than any publisher in the world? Or is Facebook a publisher, with the stickiest tech platform in the world? The answer depends. If it’s hanging upside down in a nest of revenue-generating eyeball-hunters (aka advertisers and supported apps)—Profits are King! If it’s in a nest of content regulators—Long Live the Republic!
Should we care whether Facebook wants to call itself mouse or bird?
Yes. Unless you believe that we, as consumers, by signing on to Facebook, have elected Mark Zuckerberg as our Supreme Ruler, we don’t want a corporation as powerful as Facebook to exist outside the law. Particularly when Zuckerberg’s world is governed by profits.
No. I would be naïve if I thought it was possible to truly regulate the Leviathans who dominate the digital globe.
In the end, what really matters is that Facebook is catnip and we have to resist. We risk losing our power to discriminate between what we need or want to read or watch and what we consume just because it’s there. At some point our addiction-addled brains will forfeit all powers of individual reasoning, emotional intelligence and moral purpose.
Whatever colour scarf Facebook is wearing, it’s up to us to assume our personal responsibility to be engaged, curious, attentive, discerning, global citizens, who do not succumb to the madness of crowds or the frenzy of Facebook.
Long Live Critical Thinking and Compassionate Action!
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