‘Call their bluff’: Shut down social media platforms, ex-Facebook adviser urges
A former Facebook adviser is urging governments around the world to shut down social media platforms until they can be reformed.
“If your goals are to protect democracy and personal liberty, you have to be bold. You have to force a radical transformation of the business model of internet platforms,” venture capitalist Roger McNamee told the House of Commons privacy and ethics committee Tuesday morning.
“At the end of the day, though, the most effective path to reform would be to shut down the platforms at least temporarily. …. Any country can go first. The platforms have left you no choice. The time has come to call their bluff.”
McNamee’s comments came as an international committee of MPs in Ottawa renewed their summons for Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg and company COO Sheryl Sandberg to appear and give evidence before them. Both ignored the first summons, choosing to send company representatives in their place.
n his testimony, McNamee pointed to Sri Lanka, where authorities turned off the taps on most social media after last month’s Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels killed hundreds of people.
The Sri Lankan government’s official news portal said the actions, which included blocking Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram services, were needed to stop false news reports online.
McNamee, who wrote Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, said “at a minimum” countries should end the platforms’ ability to perform web tracking and to scan emails and documents, and crack down on the platforms’ surveillance of users.
Centre for International Governance Innovation head Jim Balsillie, who became famous as one of the founders of Blackberry maker Research in Motion, also had dire words for the committee.
“Technology is disrupting governance and, if left unchecked, could render liberal democracy obsolete,” he said.
“Data is not the new oil. It’s the new plutonium: amazingly powerful, dangerous when it spreads, difficult to clean up and with serious consequences when improperly used.”