Social Media: From Private to Public?

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Facebook, Twitter and, perhaps to a lesser extent, other social media platforms have become a public forum where ideas, opinions and news are exchanged. Peter M. Gunn, of Huffington Post, argues that because social media is a essentially a public service, it’s time to take it out of the private sector and into the public one.

Social media companies have, without a doubt, changed the way we communicate. But then, fire stations changed the way we fought fire and they began as private entities. There’s actually a good argument that your privacy would be better protected by a government run social media site than it is on Facebook. For example, when is the last time the Post Office ‘shared’ your personal information with another company? Now, when is the last time Facebook ‘shared’ your email address, demographic stats or browsing habits?

Also, Facebook and Twitter can’t protect First Amendment rights. Thanks to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which says law enforcement can gain access to electronic documents with only a subpoena, they can’t protect Fourth Amendment rights, either.

Perhaps, rather than the broad step of government run socia media, stricter regulations on existing social media could be put into place. Considering the deep pockets of the existing companies, however, and their current investment in lobbying, that seems unlikely to occur.

Certainly, there could exist a public-owned social media alternative that protects your freedoms, while the privately-owned alternatives continue to thrive. Case in point, the US Post Office doesn’t run FedEx or UPS out of business. It comes down to how much protection you want for your online communication.

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