Politics

Vest the Content Creators That Give Facebook and Google Their Value

At the moment, my feeling on Facebook (hypocrisy on Instagram aside), is that I’m reluctant to “give away” content to it as it has betrayed our public trust. Data privacy issues, political conflicts of interest, etc. I don’t think I’m alone.

So what would be the fix? Start over? Why — there’s nothing terribly wrong with the infrastructure or core technologies, nothing that can’t be fixed to be run ethically.

But let’s also consider for a second that Facebook’s primary value (to us as users, not wall street value) comes from user-generated content, combined with largely “organic” network effects (kind of a “meta-value”). And that each person’s content contribution might be considered a kind of digital asset with some value as intellectual property.

Wouldn’t it makes sense for a company of this nature to “vest” the primary value-creators or “stakeholders” in formal way?

I could imagine a transition that essentially “buys out” (at corrected, non-bubble pricing) these infrastructures, “re-hires” (or just retains) the talented teams and innovators that build and extend the platforms, continue to pay them SUPER well as they are. But actually cedes the majority of the “ownership”, voting rights, representative board seats, proportional financial remuneration and so on to the stakeholders, i.e. the users. Might this help with the “accountability problem”?

And it doesn’t seem that different for Google’s “indexed” content. “Indexed” content — what a brilliant euphemism for the world’s cleverest “web scraper”. Even the ad system and revenue architecture would be worthless with user generated content authorities at the foundation.

So, pay the founders and innovators well for their infrastructure genius. But compensate the humans that seed and cultivate the long term value in meaningful proportion. And let’s not be seduced by the “free services”, as these are not sufficient compensation. These companies are double- and triple-dipping through advertising and personal data resales markets.

Aside from Warren’s call for “regulation” or “breaking up” large tech companies, is there any discussion about converting these companies into public- or semi-public entities? It seems like the stock market would be an obvious mechanism to distribute ownership, we don’t need to re-invent that wheel either.

How might we generalize this concept, from a regulatory standpoint, for all platforms that derive their value from the contributions of users?


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