The internet is a fascinating place.
Truly a land of wonder, if considered from this angle - anything is available, anything is possible.
There are, of course, plenty of places to stumble and fall - adult material, misinformation, hackers... the list goes on.
For years, the general consensus among citizens and lawmakers alike was that the internet was the 'wild wild west' and most of its machinations were 'impossible for the common citizen to understand.'
Frankly? They were right - the internet represented the true face of 'free market capitalism' (it's important to note that most markets don't, for a wide variety of reasons) and, truly, for the engineering and software development to all be explained to Average Joe would probably cause them to have a stroke.
And yet, we as a people and those who govern will throw both of those concerns to the wind when it comes to things like drainage, engineering, road construction, or just the simple activity of governing, period. Individuals become overnight experts on the various methods of moving water from Point A to Point B which required years of academic study and yet even more years of engineering experience (not to mention a ton of technology) to actually present to the public.
But the public never cared about the engineering, no - they cared about the problem and the solution... the means were irrelevant.
Why? Because the average person can't possibly live their life and take on the responsibility of someone who affects, say, drainage for as their own job. It just doesn't make sense, but we do it anyway because we know that Point A (flash flooding) and Point B (no flash flooding) don't connect.
So, Senator John Kennedy decided to wade into the internet waters recently with a bill aimed at social media, specifically. In a recent report, it was revealed that certain social media companies (that start with Face and end with Book) were utilizing their timeline algorithm to push divisive content to keep folks engaged with the app and screen time high.
For many, this is less-than-shocking, but Senator Kennedy is not a dumb man. Three years ago, he asked the most questions of Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg during the Zuck's testimony before the senate and congress. Kennedy realized then that the government may be outmatched and behind-the-times when it came to social media and how it operated. For some reason, this prevented them from enacting legislation to help curb their growth and manipulate users.
Combined with the circumstances that social media provided, vis a vis a platform to deliver immediate information to constituents, the fear of the unknown hampered legislative ability to deal with social media.
But now, with understanding that Point A (manipulating users to spend more time on the platform) does not lead to Point B (life, liberty, and the pursuit) Senator Kennedy has pushed into unknown territory. Will it work? That's not known at this time, but it's a start.
Does the internet need sweeping regulation tomorrow? Of course not, but the fact that there is a company doing everything it can to be divisive in a means to earn more money is a problem. Senator Kennedy may not have a math degree, or a software engineering degree, but he knows the power of social media and if it's being used to divide and manipulate, that has far-reaching consequences that must be stopped.
It's also time to take the leap and admit that social media has grown well beyond it's original bounds of 'connecting people' - both in business scope and size. Two-out-of-three people in North America have a Facebook account, and roughly half of them log into it daily. Let that statistic sink in for a second - any other business in any other industry would have been stopped by the SEC and broken up years ago.
And no, social media platforms are not 'in competition' with each other. Most have crossover users, as they each present an opportunity for a different audience or different use.
It's not too late to push social media, and the internet, in the right direction, but more legislators must be willing to put their neck out their over Point A and Point B.