Calls emerging for Facebook regulation

Apr 10, 2018

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's testimony today in Washington is drawing widespread interest. UB Law professor Mark Bartholomew will be among those following the proceedings "to hear about concrete plans to change." Bartholomew, who specializes in the areas of intellectual property and law and technology with an emphasis on online privacy, believes social media sites need to be regulated.

UB Law professor Mark Bartholomew sees the need for greater regulation of social media sites like Facebook.
Credit buffalo.edu

"Right now, companies like Facebook and others don't face any consequences for these kinds of data spills," Bartholomew told WBFO during an interview on Morning Edition.

"There's a couple states that actually say you have to be notified if there's a data breach, but I'd like to see hard-and-fast fines if there's an abuse of trust."

Bartholomew acknowledges the current anti-regulatory mood at the federal level. It's an attitude that requires some historical context.

"I compare this to the early 20th century. We had new technologies that were producing mass consumer goods. We had mass production transportation across the country," Bartholomew said.

"That was great. But we also know that it was terrible for worker safety and it was terrible for consumer safety. There just weren't rules for what businesses could and could not do and the profit motive made for a dangerous situation."

"Regulation was a dirty word in the early 20th century but eventually the decision was: No. There needs to be rules for what these factories have to do."

Bartholomew encourages social media users to have "digital hygiene," to be aware that posts on Facebook and other sites may be seen by an audience much larger than originally intended.

Privacy breeches at social media sites have garnered great attention. While Bartholomew assails those incidents, he also wants to draw attention to a series of "experiments" conducted upon users.

"There's one where they try to decide if changing the news feed would make people more depressed or happier depending on what they put in there. Imagine someone already suffering from depression and their news feed is tweaked that way," Bartholomew said. 

"So, I'd like to see some sort of review board, some sort of requirement that there's a board that sits in there and has to make ethical decisions before Facebook and other companies are allowed to manipulate how we feel based on their on-line architecture."