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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 29 March 2019, 2:00 pm

Facebook and the myth of self regulation

There's a rhythm to decision making inside corporates whenever there's a crisis on that I've been privy to on a few occasions.

If it's a genuine external unexpected crisis, generally you're all caught flat footed for a bit and you tend to bump into each other and it takes a while to get everyone on the same page facing the same way and so forth.

These can be quite entertaining, quite exciting and generally speaking I'd usually do these for free because they're a bit of a hoot.

But most crises don't fall into that category. They tend to be less fun and aren't unexpected.

That's right, most corporate crises are well flagged in advance. You can see them coming. You know what's about to slide down the line towards your desk and they gather with inexorable speed until you're engulfed.

A good company will have a plan. It will be written down. There will be a check list of things to do. Canned phrases will be prepared in advance and agreed upon so they can be rolled out. Spokespeople will be dragged out of meetings and put in the hot seat to explain what happened and why.

On the face of it, the Christchurch terror attacks should fall into the first camp, but this wasn't the first time Facebook has faced these issues - just not quite on the same scale - and Facebook should have been prepared.

Facebook did none of these things. No statement, no spokespeople, no "thoughts and prayers". Instead, nearly two weeks on we get Facebook saying they'll ban white supremacy hate speech from Facebook and Instagram.

No word on the fake news purveyors or the other whackos that live on these sites and make life hell for people. No word on doing anything to make it easier for users to report objectionable content. No word on bringing community guidelines into line with local jurisdictions, and no word on any changes whatsoever to the way Facebook Live operates.

This then is a PR exercise but without the thought and planning. It is useless as far as responses go.

Facebook is simply incapable of self-regulating, so we need to do it for them.

So far I've been impressed by the way New Zealand's various factions have all agreed on the changes needed to gun laws. Nobody serious is kicking up a fuss. We've got farmers and city folk, gun owners and gun haters, left and right all signing on to say "here are the changes we need to make right now" and we're getting on and it's getting done.

Perhaps we need something similar for our social media platforms.

BBC - Facebook, YouTube sued over Christchurch shootings video

The Verge - Facebook moves to ban white nationalist and separatist content on its platform

ABC - MAYHEM AND MURDER: 10 most shocking Facebook Live moments ever (WARNING: this whole piece compiles together a litany of Facebook Live events that should not be shown - you can read the story without watching the video clips, however)

RNZ - No Facebook accountability or contrition over terror attack - Privacy Commissioner

RNZ - Removing offensive social media posts ineffective - researcher

RNZ - Facebook's failure "inexcusable": anti-terror technologist

Bloomberg - Facebook to Fight Belgian Ban on Tracking Users (and Even Non-Users)

Stuff - Facebook allowed ad that said Jacinda Ardern supported the 'Islamization' of New Zealand

NZ Herald - Facebook finally removes one NZ-based hate site but leaves another



Sorry, just over here downloading the millions of words on unbundling I wrote, crossing out "copper" and replacing with "fibre". I'll just be a moment.

Time, it would seem, is a flat circle and we are now back to where we started. Unbundling.

First time round, unbundling was all about wrestling control of the copper lines off a monopoly that would let ISPs offer any service they like so long as it cost more than the most popular service it offered. That was the state of the market between 2001 and 2010 and meant that ISPs could only resell products, they couldn't build their own and sell them to customers.

In 2006, the minister of communications (David Cunliffe at the time) announced sweeping changes that would require Telecom structurally separate its business and begin offering access to the local copper lines and with some prodding from competitors and from the Commerce Commission, by 2009 Telecom did just that. I went along to the launch of unbundling and we were allowed in to the exchange at Ponsonby so we could all get a closer look at the actual lines that would finally be opened up and have kit from competing ISPs connected.

Less than a week later, Telecom announced it would immediately begin shutting down exchanges and move to roadside cabinets for all lines. The cost of unbundling leapt from something the ISPs could consider to something nobody could afford.

Such a shockingly cynical move eventually lead to the government offering to build a fibre to the home network and if Telecom wanted to join in it would have to split itself into two businesses - a retail company (Spark) and a network arm (Chorus) and lo! Today we have a fibre network that literally is the envy of many other nations (looking at you, Australia).

And from the very beginning the government built in a drop dead date. The network would be complete by the end of 2019 and would be open for unbundling from 2020. The distant future.

Of course, now it's not so distant and of course, the fibre companies are keen not to have the ISPs come in and offer their own services with their own equipment because that would make them nothing more than a dumb pipe. An ISP could, presumably, but capacity on the UFB and build its own products and services and ruin the networks' bottom lines and forecasts.

So here we are, back at the beginning again.

Chorus has released its expected price point for unbundling.

Vocus and Vodafone have howled and suggested prices would rise by $40 a month for every connection on the network.

And that noise you can hear is the Telecommunications Commissioner gearing up for another round of economists at five paces with their waterbed effects and price elasticity models.

Stuff - Vodafone and Vocus express outrage over Chorus' prices for 'unbundling' UFB

NZ Herald - Chorus move threatens to push up broadband pricing by $40/month, Vodafone claims

Stuff - Telecom makes 'mockery' of LLU (February 2009)


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