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posted by martyb on Wednesday December 06 2017, @05:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the thorny-questions dept.

The bloom is off the rose:

It was about an hour and a half into a hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee when Sen. Dianne Feinstein laid into Facebook, Google and Twitter.

"I don't think you get it," she began. "You bear this responsibility. You've created these platforms, and now they are being misused. And you have to be the ones to do something about it. Or we will."

The tech giants were being grilled by Congress over Russian trolls abusing their services to meddle in last year's US election, and the California Democratic lawmaker had had it.

It was just one of very public tongue-lashings the Silicon Valley companies received over the course of three marathon congressional panels last month, held over a two-day span. The hearings were anticlimactic, in part because the three companies only sent their general counsels instead of their famous CEOs -- a point several lawmakers bemoaned during the public questioning.

Is it Google, Twitter, and Facebook who don't get it, or Senators like Dianne Feinstein who don't get it?


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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by meustrus on Wednesday December 06 2017, @06:56PM (16 children)

    by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 06 2017, @06:56PM (#606276)

    Silicon Valley is in a very, very blue part of a very blue state. California can and will regulate the shit out of Silicon Valley if they don't regulate themselves. It's becoming increasingly clear though that Silicon Valley in general, and Facebook especially (and Uber, but that's another story), are fundamentally uninterested in the spirit or the letter of the law, or even the common good.

    You make an interesting legal argument, regardless of your lack of references. But Feinstein's job (in Congress, our primary means of affecting how the government works) is making law, not adjudicating it. The constitution is rather silent on the issue of corporations whose power rivals the government itself, which means Congress has pretty broad authority.

    Silicon Valley hasn't figured that out yet. When they do, you can be sure that they will start cooperating with the government. Just like Wall Street, pharmaceutical companies, telecoms, and other state-integrated oligarchies.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Sulla on Wednesday December 06 2017, @07:46PM (12 children)

    by Sulla (5173) on Wednesday December 06 2017, @07:46PM (#606332) Journal

    Seems like a good way to turn good Blue companies Red. As the companies get bigger they are a riper and riper fruit for government regulation and these companies will come to realize that no matter what they do to self-regulate they will never be able to meet the expectation of real progressives. The companies will finally realize that it is cheaper to buy off Republicans than it is to meet the expectations of Democrats.

    --
    "This fig came from a mere three days away by ship" - Cato the Elder
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by edIII on Wednesday December 06 2017, @09:11PM (11 children)

      by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06 2017, @09:11PM (#606406)

      I'm sorry, but that is bullshit. Companies go Red because the hell bound slime that are the executive class are avaricious. That's it, plain and simple. Red allows you to do that, as long as you also put God in the statement. You could rape 14 year old girls, and it won't matter, as long as you are an R, can keep the party going, and check of all the boxes for self-righteous religious fury.

      Regulations exist because greed and Capitalism tell them to hurt people for profit. Self-regulation requires that these people have a shred of humanity, and they don't. How can you self-regulate sociopathic behavior when you're a sociopath?

      Meeting the expectations are impossible? Ridiculous. We expect them not to pollute the rivers and ecosystems, we expect them to not pull bait & switch, we expect them to not sell our data, we expect them to provide some security, etc., etc. Regulations are us asking these pieces of shit to act with some humanity and as if they live with us and accept the same consequences. So much of the time, a regulation is forcing an executive with their soft fucking hands, to buy safety gear for the wage slave on the factory floor so he can live a whole life with both arms and hands. Most of the time it is about safety, and those soft cowardly mother fuckers up in the board room don't care one iota about how dangerous it is. Why would they? By deliberately creating environments of extreme financial duress, they can watch Jorge lose his hand, and then be replaced by the foreman who goes outside the the throngs of hungry men trying to feed themselves and their families. Why do they need to put themselves in another shoe's and contemplate the consequences when people are expendable? Yeah, it's impossible to self-regulate such behavior, because it is logically precluded by their mental damage.

      Cheaper to buy off Republicans than to do the right thing? Fuck man, then those people need to GO TO JAIL. What regulations are so onerous that it requires immoral subterfuge to bypass? Remember, nearly every regulation exists because those slimy fuckers are trying every second of the day to get other people to pay for their shit, or some way around the rules. For more profit of course, and it causes real harm to people. If it didn't, we wouldn't need a contentious consumer protection agency to protect people from big corporations that can easily abuse them.

      I have ZERO sympathy for the people complaining about regulations, when the regulations only exist because we have to actually legislate common fucking sense and decency. When we will figure out that there is a systemic endemic problem in Capitalism with these deeply damaging sociopathic behaviors? When we will step up to the final regulation, which is putting all those sociopathic fuckers in jail and forgetting about the key?

      Self-regulate? That's the funniest fucking shit I've heard all year. People that can self-regulate exist all over in society. I self-regulate by not stealing my neighbors shit, not dumping my waste in his backyard, and not fucking his 14 year old daughter. Perhaps those are regulations somewhere, but I didn't need a regulation to act with humanity in the first place. For good people, regulations are merely redundant and you were already in compliance. Apparently the people that need self-regulation the most are the people that complain about regulations. Normal people understand that you don't do these things to others, but somehow, magically, you add an MBA and lawyer to the room, and there are arguments about whether it's right or not to force people to not act like assholes. Capitalism suddenly becomes a God given right and morally superior, and provides all the justifications to do things that normal people would be aghast at.

      That's what it boils down to. Regulations are humanity filled common sense designed to protect people, and self-regulation is about not playing by the rules, or caring that somebody could get hurt in the process. Self-regulation is the same as no regulations.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Joe Desertrat on Wednesday December 06 2017, @10:18PM (10 children)

        by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Wednesday December 06 2017, @10:18PM (#606440)

        Seems to me a large part of the problem could be solved by changing corporate law. In particular change the part that corporations are "required by law" to increase shareholder profits* to require them to act in a manner that ensures the long term viability of the corporation without causing ecological or social damage. There have been occasions (Ben & Jerry's immediately comes to mind) in which a decision was made which would have continued the original vision of the creators of the brand but the threat of a shareholder lawsuit forced them to accept another bid which simply paid more in the short term but had no guarantees of future corporate responsibility. This is all a grey area of course, but it might help eliminate prevent some of the short term sociopathic activity a lot of corporations seem to exhibit.
        *It is actually "enhance shareholder value", but it is usually seems to be legally interpreted solely to mean adding dollars to profits right now.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday December 07 2017, @06:57AM (5 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07 2017, @06:57AM (#606682) Journal

          In particular change the part that corporations are "required by law" to increase shareholder profits* to require them to act in a manner that ensures the long term viability of the corporation without causing ecological or social damage.

          That's already done through regulation.

          There have been occasions (Ben & Jerry's immediately comes to mind) in which a decision was made which would have continued the original vision of the creators of the brand but the threat of a shareholder lawsuit forced them to accept another bid which simply paid more in the short term but had no guarantees of future corporate responsibility.

          So what? At this point, the Ben & Jerry approach had failed since they were seeking a buyer. Why would it be correct for the directors of the company to continue with the failed "original vision" (which given the traditional amorality of the business world could be in practice selfishly seeking greater personal wealth or risk mitigation at the expense of the shareholders) contrary to the interests of the shareholders they purportedly represent? It's much the same principle IMHO as with bankruptcies and other business failures. You don't let the people who broke the company decide its fate.

          For successful companies, it appears that you don't have to worry about these issues. Reading about it, courts assume that in a normally functioning corporation, that the directors are performing their duties. It's up to the plaintiff suing to show otherwise. And at a glance, the courts allow a lot of crap such as poison pills and golden parachutes, multiple tiers of share privileges, and greenmail and reverse greenmail (selectively buying or selling shares from certain shareholders, usually in an effort to fend off takeovers). It's only in situations like seeking buyers for the business, that the scope of the director's responsibilities narrows.

          Thus, I don't see a need to retool the basic laws of corporation formation. Just don't expect your fancy bylaws to survive a hostile buyout.

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by meustrus on Thursday December 07 2017, @03:21PM (2 children)

            by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday December 07 2017, @03:21PM (#606816)

            That's already done through regulation.

            Ha. Ha! You're next to the last person I'd expect to think regulation was doing its job. Maybe some of the environmental regulations, unemployment insurance, and benefits regulations are effective in mitigating some of the negatives. But the trend of government regulation since the Democratic party lost its soul to the likes of Feinstein [soylentnews.org] has been to target only the most egregious business practices by integrating corporations with government. At which point, shit happens like the DEA being told to stop intercepting shipments of opioids to black markets [washingtonpost.com].

            --
            If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative. Maybe the underused +1 Interesting?
            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday December 07 2017, @04:30PM (1 child)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07 2017, @04:30PM (#606852) Journal
              My point is that calling for changing law to allow good behavior as Joe did is futile, if the society isn't enforcing existing law and/or businesses can choose to their advantage not to embrace the good behavior. I happen to agree somewhat with edIII that regulation imposed by a neutral party is necessary for many sectors and activities. For the evergreen example, if something doesn't directly pertain to a traded item on a market, like pollution and other externalities, then it doesn't exist to the market. Libertarianism never has given an effective, alternate way to deal with obvious negative externalities. Either one goes through some cumbersome court process or self-enforcement via something like a vigilante posse. I grant that regulation need not be done by an official government, but someone needs to do it.
              • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Friday December 08 2017, @09:50PM

                by fustakrakich (6150) on Friday December 08 2017, @09:50PM (#607452) Journal

                I grant that regulation need not be done by an official government, but someone needs to do it.

                C'mon, man! Don't bogart that joint! Let's hear some names. You know, this majority rule thing is higher maintenance than most people want to admit. Businesses are very active in government decision making every day. The voters need to be just as active, or at least learn how to better delegate. Let's turn the rotating door into a one way turnstyle.

          • (Score: 3, Informative) by Joe Desertrat on Thursday December 07 2017, @10:16PM (1 child)

            by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Thursday December 07 2017, @10:16PM (#607014)

            That's already done through regulation.

            Why should we rely on regulation, which is only as strong or effective as the government currently in power allows, rather than those who own shares in the company? Right now it appears to be relatively common to hear of effective lawsuits when the most short term profitable path is not taken, it does not appear to be practically possible for a shareholder to sue to prevent or change any such action.

            At this point, the Ben & Jerry approach had failed since they were seeking a buyer.

            They were not selling because the business had failed, they were retiring and no longer wanted to be involved with running a company. They had a buyer lined up who they believed matched their vision, most other shareholders approved, but a tiny minority threatened to sue if they did not accept a higher bid with no guarantees of behavior. If a counter suit supporting a more altruistic path was practically possible, the remaining shareholders might have been able to call that bluff and force the sale to the lower, but more acceptable bid.

            And at a glance, the courts allow a lot of crap such as poison pills and golden parachutes, multiple tiers of share privileges, and greenmail and reverse greenmail (selectively buying or selling shares from certain shareholders, usually in an effort to fend off takeovers).

            Among the sorts of things that it might be possible to prevent if corporate laws were rewritten to encourage behavior other than short term gain.

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday December 07 2017, @11:28PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07 2017, @11:28PM (#607042) Journal

              Why should we rely on regulation, which is only as strong or effective as the government currently in power allows, rather than those who own shares in the company?

              Conflict of interest. For example, what's going to happen when the shareholders aren't interested in the common good?

              They were not selling because the business had failed, they were retiring and no longer wanted to be involved with running a company.

              The company had a very deflated stock price. That was driving the sale. The founders otherwise could have appointed replacement leadership and no drama would have ensued.

              Among the sorts of things that it might be possible to prevent if corporate laws were rewritten to encourage behavior other than short term gain.

              Ben & Jerry's used two of those tricks - poison pills and tiered ownership.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by microtodd on Thursday December 07 2017, @01:43PM (1 child)

          by microtodd (1866) on Thursday December 07 2017, @01:43PM (#606782) Homepage Journal

          I actually agree completely with this. This is the research (well.....wikipedia article) I've found that points to (imho) the root of the problem.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodge_v._Ford_Motor_Co./ [wikipedia.org]

          Relevant quote:

          "corporate officers and directors have a duty to manage the corporation for the purpose of maximizing profits for the benefit of shareholders"

          Yes, there's some disagreement on the validity and interpretation, but as you've said the default posture seems to be to maximize this quarter's returns and financial statements, and not worry about a) long term environmental impact b) long term customer goodwill and c) corporate responsibility.

          I call it the "Disney Effect". When Disney reaches a point that they are making ridiculous amounts of money, and (for example) the theme parks draw record crowds every year, there's no benefit to improving quality. Why bother? They've already got more customers than they can handle.

          • (Score: 2) by meustrus on Thursday December 07 2017, @03:24PM

            by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday December 07 2017, @03:24PM (#606817)

            But there is a benefit (to shareholders, in the very short term) to cutting costs. If Disney can't make Disneyland bring in more revenue, but you can make it cost less to operate, should they have a duty to cut costs to boost profits? Even when the park is already profitable, and cutting costs might just kill the goose that lays the golden egg?

            --
            If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative. Maybe the underused +1 Interesting?
        • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Thursday December 07 2017, @04:58PM (1 child)

          by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Thursday December 07 2017, @04:58PM (#606866) Homepage
          "required by law" to ... "enhance shareholder value"

          Or use turnabout, as turnabout is fair play.

          Perhaps the US constitution needs a clause that makes the government required by law to enhance citizenry value. Which should oblige them to tax overseas-cash-rich corporations a whole lot more.
          --
          Life is a precious commodity. A wise investor would get rid of it when it has the highest value.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @12:50AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @12:50AM (#606500)

    Feinstein is at the *CENTER* of that blue area. Do not think for one second her message was not the one those companies want to promote. They are de-facto already doing it. They just want to be on the right side of the law when the lawsuits start flying.

    They grabbed their personal congress critter to give out their message. She is bought and paid for by their money. She delivered the message they want.

    Russian trolls is just the excuse they want to go full lockdown on their own platforms. Basically what they consider 'the bad guys' won and used their own platform to do it. They are pissed and want laws to make it legal for them to silence anyone they do not like. They want DMCA protection yet full control. The DMCA basically says 'you are neutral in it' they no longer want to remain that way.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @01:12AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @01:12AM (#606508)

    Folks might be surprised to see how not-especially-Blue Cali is in many places.
    2012 map [wikimedia.org]
    2016 map [wikimedia.org]

    Along the coast, it's more bluish.
    Inland, it's more likely to be Red.
    The northwest corner is extremely Red.
    In the last presidential election, L.A.County got more Blue (shock!) but the coastal counties above the Bay Area were less Blue.

    -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @01:15AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @01:15AM (#606510)

      s/northwest corner/northeast corner

      -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]