Social networks like Facebook won’t go away anytime soon. States should therefore ensure that the platforms do less damage.

You should recognize them by their diesels. No, not the company car driver. Data centers. Most of them have diesel engines on the roof, small chimneys reveal it. They should ensure the supply of electricity in the event of a power failure. There are already so many computer halls in Frankfurt, the German Internet capital, that space is slowly becoming scarce. If you consider that in the 1990s the slow snoring access to this Internet (“I’m already in it or what”, tennis star Boris Becker advertised) was billed by the minute, a lot has happened since then.

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And yet there are people who want the pre-internet time. It is clear a fool who blindly chases everything that is called progress. Especially since it is often steered by corporations. Less fixation on private transport, for example – to name just one example – would do cities (r) n incredibly good today. If cars had not been preferred, the train could possibly offer a functioning service. So yes: progress is not good per se.

However, progress is not bad per se. Maybe you shouldn’t expect too much from people. Some things take time for the corners and edges to wear off. Hopefully this also happens with what is called social networks. They are called social because people can use them to make contact with others. However, they are not social in the sense that they make a predominantly positive contribution to society.

Information bubbles have a reinforcing effect in these networks

These networks are essentially platforms for extracting information that can be used for advertising purposes. Trolls, radicals of all stripes and other idiots use them to spread their intellectual garbage. And cunning political influencers, with support from the power centers, use them in their underhanded ways in some ways. Information bubbles have a reinforcing effect in these networks. Even the craziest sectarians will still find like-minded people here.

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However, in the era of the corona pandemic, it is now becoming clear that they can be considerably more. It’s not that the networks don’t work. In fact, they do it pretty well, otherwise they would not be of much use to their operators. You can actually keep in touch with your friends, even if it is not possible to meet them in person. Of course this is only the second best solution, but the first one is not available at the moment. In this regard, the networks are clearly superior to the previous options – essentially essentially making calls.

This leads to the question of whether one (the wonderful networking skills) can be had without the other (the false news, the hate) and, if so, how to do it. One argument is against the operators of today’s popular networks, all of which come either from the USA (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat) or from China (Wechat, Weibo, Tiktok). While those from China, with the exception of Tiktok, play almost no role here, the US networks dominate. If only European providers with more pressure on data protection had managed to develop similar products at a similar early stage, everything could be different now, you often hear.

Better insights from the data of many

But would that really be the case? The problem is that not too many of these services can coexist. Because the more people use the same service, the more valuable it becomes for the user, but also for the operator. From the data of many, insights can be obtained better than from less. Services that are at home in Europe had to follow far more regulations than Facebook, for example. It was therefore more difficult for them, and there was also a lack of venture capital. The only European service worth mentioning that really plays along with the big ones is the Swedish Spotify.

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So there was a lack of entrepreneurship on the one hand and venture capital on the other. It is therefore quite a crazy idea that the state should set up such platforms. States and their administrations should do what they can – cool social networks are certainly not one of them.

Even services like Facebook, Twitter and so on are not forever. However, as long as they are realistically speaking, the only question is how to deal with them. Nobody has to use them, but it is difficult for younger people. A particularly delicate question is who should be responsible for unwanted content. The networks were able to steal responsibility for a long time, now underpaid content moderators from subcontractors have to fish out the dirt and trash. However, it is actually not a task for companies to interpret state rules. And it remains a very delicate balancing act to weigh the right to freedom of expression and the right of people who are badly offended or even threatened.

The spirit has long been out of the bottle, and could only be banished again with coercive means that are not up for debate in a liberal democracy. What remains is tedious and tedious: Society must learn, even in childhood, how to use the possibilities of the network properly. This also includes knowing the negative sides and learning that not everything on the net is true. Critical mind is required, doubt is appropriate. Desperation, on the other hand, doesn’t get you anywhere.

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