Ross: Is the Wild West of social media over after Senate hearing?

Feb 1, 2024, 9:59 AM | Updated: 10:11 am

social media...

In this photo illustration, a teenager uses her mobile phone to access social media on January 31, 2024. (Photo illustration: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(Photo illustration: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Is the party finally over?

The message of yesterday’s Senate hearing was clear: Social media is well past its incubation period and needs to be regulated the way broadcasters are.

The original social media business model was genius — get ordinary people to create content for free, sell ads and give the content creators a cut.

More on social media: Instagram’s ‘nightly nudge’ may be a step toward healthy social media habits

But as YouTube discovered early on, what people wanted to post AND wanted to see included a lot of porn and violence. And nasty gossip. And dangerous stupid human tricks. Yes, uplifting and charming Cat videos too, but way too much of the other stuff.

And the algorithms, which were designed to feed viewers more of whatever they clicked on, amplified the garbage as well as the gold.

With so many “contributors” there was no way to do what regular broadcasters do — which is vet the people who supply your content, preview what’s broadcast, and exercise that control in real-time.

And that’s how the trouble started.

Our show – Seattle’s Morning News — is controlled by a company with people you can contact and complain to — our employers know who we are, Colleen, Chris and I are bound to standards set out in our employment contracts, our organization is regulated by the FCC, and even with all that — we ALSO operate with a delay just in case.

Social media platforms, however, can just sit back as people they don’t know post stuff they don’t preview and are not legally responsible for.

Because they’re not considered broadcasters. Like gun manufacturers, they can’t be sued for the consequences of their products — even though their audiences, which are in the billions, far surpass traditional broadcasters — except maybe on Super Bowl Sunday.

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But yesterday it was clear that a critical mass of senators has come to the conclusion that the cost of this hands-off approach has been far too high.

Republican Senator Joe Kennedy:

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Is the Wild West of social media over after Senate hearing?