This is post #9 of a multi-part series.
The penultimate part of Professor Jack Balkin’s paper “How to regulate … social media” contains my favorite quote about Facebook (Part 8, pp. 88-89, footnote omitted): “Facebook’s history as a company has been a cycle of engaging in bad behavior, getting caught, apologizing profusely and promising to mend its ways, followed by the company engaging in slightly different bad behavior, offering new apologies and promises of reform and so on.” (For further evidence of this apology cycle, check out this chronological compilation of Mark Zuckerberg’s insincere apologies over the years. This comprehensive compilation by Gregory Fowler and Chiqui Esteban, which is titled “14 years of Mark Zuckerberg saying sorry, not sorry,” traces this apology cycle as far back to Zuckerberg’s creation of an illegal website called Face Mash back in the fall of 2003 — a website that was memorably depicted in the 2010 movie “The Social Network.”)
After citing the work of Shoshana Zuboff, Professor Balkin then goes on to make the following remarkable claim (p. 89): “Facebook will keep misbehaving and it will keep apologizing, not because it is incompetent or clumsy, but because of the fundamental misalignment between its goals and the public’s needs, and because it has an inherent conflict of interest with its end users and … with democracy itself.” Really? Just because you say something doesn’t make it true. To the point, what is the evidence that Facebook has an “inherent conflict of interest” with “democracy”. What does that even mean? Maybe Facebook is just incompetent or clumsy.
For my part, I suspect that the true purpose of Prof Balkin’s hyperbolic rhetoric is to justify his call for regulation of social media. Indeed, Balkin will make three specific regulatory proposals in the last part of his paper, Part 9, which I will review in the next day or two …